EXTRA: Gufo Dongtian, Lechang, Guangdong

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on August 11, 2014.)

This cave (洞) at "Old Buddha Cave Heaven" (古佛洞天) near Lechang,
Guangdong (广东, 乐昌市), was once a place for meditation (禅).

July 26, 2012 - The day after I saw Zhaoyin Temple at the Maba Man site, I took a long bus ride the other way--north of Shaoguan--to Lechang and another site that some scholars associate with Huineng, the famous Sixth Patriarch of Chan (Zen).

At least one ancient document says Huineng studied seated meditation at the "Old Buddha Cave Heaven" (Gufo Dongtian), a place as odd as the name sounds.

The central feature is a limestone cave filled with stalactites (the ones that come down from the ceiling), stalagmites (up from the floor) and, where the two join, full pillars made by centuries of dripping water. The management has named some of the more fanciful apparitions in stone: Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, trees, figures from literature, the moon, a dragon, and other imaginative figures.

A guide walks visitors through the 600-meter-long cave, turning colored lights on and off. I was fortunate to have one who spoke some English, and since I was the only one on the tour, we had some fun working out what she was saying. (Guide service is included in the pricey 60rmb admission ticket.)

Elsewhere in the park is a large temple located in a ground-floor cave (not up the side of a cliff, as was Zhaoyin). It contains large statues of Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and is attended by cheerful, friendly monks.

On the back side of the mountain is the "Great Buddha of Northern Guangdong," a fairly modest statue in an isolated, serene setting.

Although designated a "City Level National Park," Gufo Dongtian seems to be on few tourists' itineraries. That alone makes it worth a look.

GPS Info:
  • 25.08208, 113.34258


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


More pictures can be found here.

Colored lights and stalactites at Old Buddha Cave Heaven

The cave temple is attended by friendly monks.

The Great Buddha of Northern Guangdong

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