Construction of Famen Temple began during the Eastern Han (25-220), when a pagoda was built firstly to hold the Sakyamuni’s finger bone and then the temple got built. The original name of the temple was Asoka Stupa, and it was renamed the current one. In Song Dynasty (960-1279), it came to its largest scale. It was maintained by government and believers in Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1616-1911) dynasties despite of sort of decline.
After the foundation of People’s Republic of China, Famen Temple has been attracting more and more pilgrims. In 1984, the administration of Famen Temple was transferred to Buddhism organization. In 1987, the temple was the focus of attention when the base of its brick tower was cleared for rebuilding, revealing an underground palace with 2,400 treasures, belonging to Tang (618-907) and previous dynasties. Coinciding with the birthday of Sakyamuni, such a great finding was rare and exciting.
Famen Temple is well known worldwide because Sakyamuni’s finger relics in Famen Temple are the only piece of the Sakyamuni’s finger in the world now. Historically it was an imperial temple.
The scripture on the memorial gateway to Famen Temple was written by Zhaoji, an emperor in Song Dynasty. The pagoda being at the center, the gateway, the hall of bronze Buddhist, the pagoda, the hall of Sakyamuni and the depository of Buddhist scriptures make up an architectural complex. The bell tower and drum tower are lying on each side of the pagoda. There are two painting corridors from the hall of Bronze Buddhist to the pagoda.
1. In front of the gate of the Famen Temple is a square, 120 meters long and 60 meters wide.
2. The hall of Sakyamuni is the main building of any temple. The hall of Sakyamuni in Famen Temple was completed in 1994, 13.94 meters high, 50 meters long and 27 meters wide, with seven rooms inside and a two-meter-wide corridor around it. There are 29 red poles to support the hall. The hall of Sakyamuni covers an area of 998 square meters. It’s Dang style architecture with corbel bracket and upturned eaves.
3. Famen Temple pagoda is famous for a piece of finger bone relics of Sakyamuni. There are four horizontal inscribed boards with different words at the four sides of the base; inside the pagoda are hundreds of pieces of Buddhist scriptures.
4. The underground palace was found on April 8th, the birthday of Sakyanuni, when the Famen pagoda was rebuilt. A great number of treasures, belonging to Tang and previous dynasties, were brought to light as a result. After rebuilding, the new underground palace remains its original style. Open to all tourists the new underground palace is made up of seven parts: pavement, platform, tunnel, front room, middle room, back room and shrine.
With a total coverage of 31.84 square meters and a length of 21 meters, the new underground palace is the largest underground building to offer sacrifices for Sakyamuni. It is 6 meters deep and the backroom is right under the pagoda. The former underground palace had four stone gates, all rooms constructed with stone. Now, the sculptures and decorations on the gates are persevered well for visit.
5. Lying Buddhist Palace,Situated in the eastern yard, the Lying Buddhist Palace faces south. In the middle room of the palace, a white jade Buddhist lies on a high platform with head in the west.