EXTRA: Mei'an, Zhaoqing, Guangdong

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on August 18, 2014.)

This ancient plum tree at Mei An (Nunnery) in Zhaoqing, Guangdong (广东, 肇庆市), is descended
from one said to have been planted by the Sixth Patriarch (六祖) of Chan (Zen = 禅).

July 27, 2012 - The morning after my trip to Gufo Dongtian ("Old Buddha Cave Heaven"), I left Shaoguan on my way to Xinxing, near the birth and death place of Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch of Chan (Zen). The journey between Shaoguan and Xinxing was one that Huineng made many times, and I would visit some of his stopping places along the way.

The first one was humble little Mei An, the "Plum Hermitage," now located in Zhaoqing. Although the temple was built in 996, long after Huineng's death in 713, there are two places within its small grounds associated with the Great Sixth.

The first is a small hillock on which legend says Huineng planted a plum tree (hence the name). Believe it or not, many Buddhist monks and nuns I have known are constant snackers, and it seems plums were one of Huineng's favorites. Though his tree is gone, there are still some younger plum trees on the site. The hillock is marked today by a statue of Huineng with a disciple.

The second artifact of Huineng's presence is a well, which tradition says he dug to water the trees and other plants there. Also at the temple are two "Bodhi trees"--the kind under which the Buddha attained enlightenment--said to have been brought from India over a thousand years ago.

The temple has several informative halls. One of them contains a long mural painted in traditional style, depicting the six Chan patriarchs from Bodhidharma to Huineng. Another has numerous exquisite statues of Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Yet a third contains life-sized dioramas of the life of the Sixth Patriarch. Unfortunately, this last one was closed on my visit--giving me a reason to return.

GPS Info:
  • 23.05016, 112.44787


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


More pictures can be found here.

A thousand-year-old Bodhi tree in front of Mei An's gate

This statue of Huineng and novice marks the spot where Huineng planted a plum tree.

Huineng's well

Detail of a mural of the six Chan patriarchs, showing Huineng

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