No. 125: Luohou Temple, Wutai Shan, Shanxi

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on March 23, 2015.)

Luohou Temple (罗喉寺) on Wutai Shan in Shanxi (山西, 五台山) is
famed for this Buddha in a mechanical lotus that opens and closes.

August 27, 2012 - The lower gate of Luohou Temple is located immediately next to Shifang Tang, which I described in a previous article.

In addition to a few unique features, the temple has a most interesting name. If we repeat the first character, so it becomes Luohouluo, the name is the Chinese representation of Rahula, the son of the historic Buddha.

He was a fascinating figure. Tradition says the Buddha-to-be left the palace the night his son was born, in order to seek enlightenment. Later, when Rahula asked the former prince to give him "his birthright," the Buddha offered to lead him to enlightenment, too. He became a monk, the youngest among the Buddha's followers.

This is the only temple I've encountered named for Rahula.

Built in the Tang Dynasty, the temple has been a "lamaist"--Tibetan-style--one since the Qing. It features a typical "milk bottle" white pagoda, a smaller version of the one in the nearby Tayuan (Pagoda Compound) Temple.

In front of the sutra library are two half-sized elephants, a delightful reminder of Buddhism's South Asian connections.

But in a hall near the back stands the greatest of wonders. It's an oversized lotus flower which opens and closes mechanically, revealing four golden figures of the Amitabha Buddha (called "Amito Fo" in Chinese), one facing each direction, and each becoming visible as the mechanism turns, while the petals open and close. Marvelous! (Unfortunately, it was not operating the day I was there, but one of the Buddhas was open to view.)

I exited the upper gate of the temple and continued up the hill.

GPS Info:
  • 39.00935, 113.59763


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


More pictures can be found here.

A typical "milk bottle" pagoda on the grounds of Luohou Temple

One of the elephants guarding Luohou's Sutra Library

A marvelous mechanical lotus device in a rear hall

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