No. 119: Huayan Temple, Datong, Shanxi

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on December 29, 2014.)

An ancient set of Buddhas of the Five Directions (五方佛) graces the
Main Hall at Huayan Temple (华严寺), Datong, Shanxi (山西, 大同市).

August 22, 2012 - My next trip was a long one, stretching over 14 days and comprising nearly 30 sites. I traveled from Datong in the far north up to Wutai Mountain, down to Taiyuan, then to Zhaoxian and finally Zhengding in Shijiazhuang.

My arrival in Datong was complicated by the construction of new "ancient" city walls. My hotel was inside the walls near my first destination, and as the airport bus couldn't enter I ended up hauling my bags a couple of kilometers before settling.

The inconvenience was made up for the next day, because from hotel to temple was about a three-minute walk!

Huayan Temple was built in 1062 during the Liao Dynasty, and Datong was a national capital during both the Liao and the Jin periods. Despite the depredations of war, the temple has an abundance of ancient halls and statuary.

It is divided into two areas, designated Upper and Lower Huayan Temple, lying side by side. Each has its own main hall, and both are oriented toward the east. The main hall of Upper Huayan is huge--over 1,550 square meters--and has five enormous Buddha statues. Twenty large Deva Kings lean in toward them, ten from either side, with well-preserved Qing-Dynasty frescoes behind them.

The main hall at Lower Huayan is much humbler, but contains some of the best ancient statuary I've seen in China. It is also a sutra library with many ancient texts in equally-ancient book cabinets.

There are other halls on the grounds, many of them quite new with (to my eye, rather gaudy) statues. But there is a new set of 18 Arhats in the Lower Temple that is well-worth seeing.

GPS Info (click link to view map):


(Regarding problems with this map, please see the CHINA section on this page.)


More pictures can be found here (Huayan) and here (Yuantong).

The huge main hall of Upper Huayan Temple, as seen from the nearby pagoda

Deva Kings in the main hall of Upper Huayan

Five Buddhas in the main hall of Upper

The charmingly creaky old main hall of Lower Huayan Temple

Truly ancient Buddhas in the main hall of Lower Huayan

Superb new statues of the 18 Arhats at Lower Huayan

The main--and only--hall (大雄宝殿) at Yuantong Temple (圆通寺), Datong,
Shanxi (山西, 大同市), is a hopeful sign of the rise of a new temple.

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