No. 124: Shifang Hall, Wutai Shan, Shanxi

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on March 16, 2015.)

The front gate of Shifang Hall (十方堂) on Wutai Shan,
Shanxi (山西, 五台山) has Tibet-style decorations.

August 27, 2012 - Making up for the day before, when I had only visited one temple on my list, the next day I visited SIX!

I started out not far from my hotel at Shifang Tang, the quaintly-named "Hall of Ten Directions." In Chinese tradition, there are eight directions represented by the four compass points and the points in between; up and down are added to make ten. "Ten Directions" means, essentially, "Everywhere."

Tang, meaning "hall," applies to the entire establishment, not any one building. It is not as old as many others on Mt. Wutai, having been founded in 1831 by a monk from Gansu Province, where Tibetan-style Buddhism is common.

I don't know much about Tibetan iconography--a real handicap in a place like Wutai, where so many monks from China's farthest reaches have come on pilgrimage--but one of the first things I saw was very familiar. Atop the main gate is an eight-spoked wheel representing the Buddha's first teaching. Facing it on either side are two deer, betokening the location of that first sermon in the Deer Park at Sarnath.

Another charming sight was taking place in an open pavilion in the center of the temple. Under a teacher's watchful eye, young monks in Tibetan garb were competing to see how many full prostrations they could crack out--stand, kneel, lie flat, kneel, stand--in a given time period. They seemed to be having fun, despite frequent admonitions from the teacher to take it seriously!

But I couldn't linger to watch. After visiting the open halls, I moved on to my next destination, just next door.

GPS Info:
  • 39.00903, 113.59807


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


More pictures can be found here.

Deer facing a Wheel of Dharma on the main gate at Shifang Tang

Buildings blend Chinese and Tibetan architecture.

Young monks were practicing prostrations in this pavilion.

A closer view shows the monks practicing prostrations.

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