No. 103: Nanhua Temple, Shaoguan, Guangdong

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on July 28, 2014.)

The Nine Dragon Spring (九龙泉) at Nanhua Temple (南华寺)
in Shaoguan, Guangdong (广东, 韶关市). Legend says it was
created when the Sixth Patriarch (六祖) of Chan (Zen = 禅)
tapped the ground nine times with his staff; nine dragons
flew out of the ground and the spring began to run.

July 24, 2012 - My next stop, the day after visiting Yunmen Temple, was by far the most famous Buddhist temple in southern China. Its very name, Nanhua Si, means "The Temple of South China."

It was here that Huineng, the vaunted Sixth Patriarch of Chan, lived and taught for many years. Though he died elsewhere, it was decided that his body would be returned here (a story I will tell later). It is still here, in the form of an effigy said to be his "body relic"--a kind of lacquered mummy.

Evidence of Huineng's influence is everywhere here, not just in the hall where the mummy presides. For example, there is a spring said to have resulted from the striking of his staff in the ground. Faithful devotees still collect water there to take home.

Huineng was not always revered, however. About three kilometers southwest of the temple is "Refuge Rock." His appointment as Sixth Patriarch had been controversial; after all, tradition says he was illiterate, and at the time of his selection he had not been ordained.

So there was a faction that wanted him out, which at one time chased him from Nanhua Temple and, when he hid on a wooded mountainside, set the forest on fire. He hid in an indentation in the rock, and marks there are said to be the imprint of his robe, made by the flames. After much walking and searching--and the help of a local farm girl--I was able to find this incredible site.

In addition to the body of Huineng, the temple also has relics of the modern Master Xu Yun. One of the largest temples I've seen on my travels, it has all the usual halls, and there is a small nunnery named Wujin ("endless" or "inexhaustible") on the grounds.

Also in the neighborhood, about five kilometers to the southwest near the banks of the Beijiang ("North River") is the newly-reestablished Yuehua ("Moonlight") Temple. It was once a river-landing where visitors to Nanhua Temple would alight before traveling overland to the larger temple.

GPS Info (click the links to view the maps):


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


More pictures can be found here.
There are also albums featuring Refuge RockWujin Nunnery, and Yuehua Temple.

The pagoda of the Sixth Patriarch at Nanhua Temple

A spring (allegedly) created miraculously by Huineng at the rear of the temple

Refuge Rock, where Huineng hid

The Refuge Rock (避難石) in Shaoguan, Guangdong (广东, 韶关市), is where the
Sixth Patriarch (六祖) of Chan (Zen = 禅) is said to have hidden when his
persecutors set fire to the brush on the hillside where he had been hiding.

These amusing Arhats (罗汉) grace the Main Hall of tiny Wujin Nunnery
(无尽庵) at Nanhua Temple (南华寺) in Shaoguan, Guangdong (广东, 韶关市).

The Main Hall at Yuehua Temple (月华寺) near Shaoguan, Guangdong (广东, 韶关市).
This was once a river-landing where visitors to Nanhua Temple (南华寺) would alight.

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