Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou: Experience the Rich Atmosphere of Zen Buddhism
Lingyin Temple, Hangzhou
Lingyin Temple, also known as "Yunlin Temple", is nestled at the foot of Lingyin Mountain to the west of West Lake. The tranquil environment makes it one of the earliest renowned temples in Hangzhou and one of the top ten ancient Buddhist Zen temples in China.
Lingyin Temple, backed by Beigao Peak and facing Feilai Peak, is particularly noteworthy for the famous Feilai Peak. Although the peak is not high, its numerous caves are full of twists and turns, and its more than 340 Buddhist grotto statues dating back to the Five Dynasties era make it a rare treasure of ancient grotto art in the Jiangnan region.
Though hidden in the mountains, Lingyin Temple has a thriving incense trade. It is said that praying for blessings here is particularly effective, especially on the first and fifteenth day of the lunar month or on Buddhist feast days, when crowds of devotees flock to the temple.
Lingyin Temple Facts
- Chinese name: 灵隐寺
- Pinyin: Lingyin si
- Address: No.1 Lingyin Road, Xihu District, Hangzhou
- Opening hours: Daily from 7:00 to 18:15
- Ticket price: Feilai Peak scenic area ticket: 45 RMB; Lingyin Temple incense ticket: 30 RMB. (The Feilai Peak scenic area includes Feilai Peak and Lingyin Temple, to visit Lingyin Temple, you need to first buy a Feilai Peak ticket to enter the scenic area, and then purchase a ticket for Lingyin Temple)
Treasure Trove of History and Culture
The testament of 1,700 years of history made Lingyin Temple a treasure trove of history and culture:
- The plaque of "Yunlin Zen Temple" hanging in the Heavenly Kings Hall was penned by the Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty.
- The stone pagoda in front of the Great Buddha's Hall and the stone Buddhist scripture pillar in front of the Heavenly Kings Hall are remnants from the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period of the Wu Yue era.
- The precious Buddhist cultural relics treasured in the temple include ancient palm-leaf sūtras, gilded Buddha statues of East Wei, the Diamond Sutra written by Dong Qichang of the Ming Dynasty, and the Longzang wood carving of Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Dynasty.
- Lingyin Temple was also the place where Daoji, or "Ji Gong", became a monk. The Buddha statue holding a broken fan in his right hand, prayer beads in his left hand, and resting his right foot on a wine jar, enshrined in the Hall of Master Daoji, is a statue of Ji Gong.
History of Lingyin Temple
Lingyin Temple is one of the earliest Buddhist temples in China and one of China's top ten ancient temples. It was first built in the Xianhe era of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (326 AD) and has a history of about 1,700 years, making it the earliest renowned temple in Hangzhou.
The founding master of Lingyin Temple was the Western Indian monk, Master Huiri. At the beginning of the Xianhe era in the Eastern Jin Dynasty, he travelled from the Central Plains to Zhejiang, and upon arriving in Wulin (today's Hangzhou), he exclaimed, "This is like a small ridge on Lingjiu Mountain in the central region of Tianzhu State (ancient India), I wonder when it flew here? The Buddha often hid here in his time." So, he built a temple in front of the peak and named it Lingyin.
When Lingyin Temple was founded, Buddhism was not prosperous, and everything was only in its infancy. It was until the reign of Emperor Wu of the Southern Dynasty, who awarded farmland, expanded constructions and the scale of the temple started to be considerable. In the 6th year of the Great Calendar in Tang Dynasty (771), a comprehensive renovation took place, turning it into a thriving place of Buddhism. However, due to the “Hui Chang Persecution” at the end of Tang Dynasty, Lingyin Temple was destroyed. Not until the Five Dynasties when Qian Liu, the king of Wu and Yue, ordered Zen Master Yongming Yanshou to rejuvenate the temple. They built new stone pillars, Buddha pavilions, Dharma halls, and a hundred feet tall Maitreya pavilion; the temple was renamed as the New Lingyin Temple.
Lingyin temple was thriving with nine towers, eighteen pavilions, seventy-two halls and temples, and more than 3,000 monks. During the Southern Song Dynasty era when the capital was moved to Hangzhou, Emperor Gaozong and Emperor Xiaozong often attended Lingyin and administered temple affairs, and exercised calligraphy and painting. During the Song Dynasty (Ningzong's Jiading era), Lingyin Temple was acclaimed as one of the "Five Mountains" of Zen Buddhism in Jiangnan.
In the Qing Dynasty Shunzhi period, the giant figure of Zen, Master Jute, presided over Lingyin with the ambition to rebuild it, raising a massive amount of funds. It took a whole eighteen years just to build the halls. The magnificent scale became the "Southeast Crown". In 1689, during the 28th year of the reign of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty, Emperor Kangxi granted the name "Yunlin Zen Temple" during his southern tour.
Recommended Visiting Route
Lingyin Temple is mainly composed of the Heavenly Kings Hall, the Great Buddha's Hall, the Medicine Buddha Hall, the Straight Pointing Hall (Dharma Hall), and the Avatamsaka Hall along the central axis. On both sides are auxiliary buildings such as the Hall of Five Hundred Arhats, the Hall of Daoji, the Lotus Lantern Tower, Avatamsaka Tower, the Great Compassion Building, and the Abbot's Room, which in total covers an area of 130 mu. The large and orderly layout of the temple halls is majestic. Inside the Great Buddha's Hall, a statue of Sakyamuni Buddha is enshrined. Sculpted from 24 pieces of camphor wood, it is a total of 24.8 meters high. The statue is solemn and yet lively, an exceptional sight in China.
Tourists may enter the temple through its mountain gate and then sequentially visit the Hall of Heavenly Kings and the Mahavira Hall, followed by the Dharma Hall. The tour can proceed to the Guanyin Hall, Mahakaruna Tower, before finally reaching the Sutra Library and Medicine Buddha Hall. Each spot along the route is filled with significance and charm, reflecting the profound history and culture of Lingyin Temple in every detail.
Before guests leave, they are encouraged to try a meal at the Lingyin Vegetarian Restaurant near the temple; they offer excellent food that is widely dubbed as ‘food for the gods.
Important Buddhist Festivals and Activities
The practice of distributing Laba Congee during the Labajie Festival is an ongoing tradition at Lingyin Temple, a millennium-old Buddhist temple in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. In 2015, instead of providing the congee within the temple, the focus shifted toward distributing it in welfare homes, elderly homes, and other institutions. Furthermore, large-scale sutra chanting sessions, prayer meetings, and Dharma talks are organized inside the temple during the festival. A December 2021 update indicated that due to pandemic control measures, massive public Laba Congee distributions would be canceled to prevent gatherings.
Shuilu Fahui is a large-scale Buddhist ritual typically held at Lingyin Temple every year in the ninth lunar month. Lasting seven days, it includes daily sutra recitations and repentance rituals, offering blessings, and services for the deceased.
Mendicant's Bowl Pilgrimage
Since 2009, Lingyin Temple initiated the "Mendicant's Bowl Pilgrimage" charitable event, which has been held six times until 2015. The aim of these activities is to practice the compassionate spirit of Buddhism and spread it throughout society, offering people the chance to get closer to the Three Jewels.
How to Get There
- Bus: Take city bus routes 324, 7, 807, 807 (Holiday Line), or Y2 to Lingyin Station, or take the 2 (Holiday Line), 103, or 324 bus to Lingyin East Station.
- Bicycle: Cycling to Lingyin Temple from downtown Hangzhou is also a good option thanks to the city's comfortable environment and excellent road conditions.
There are numerous attractions around Lingyin Temple, such as the Peak Flown From Afar, Buddhist temple, West Lake... If time permits, visitors are encouraged to combine these attractions with the visit to the temple.
- Yongfuchan Temple: Is located about one mile west of Lingyin, at the foot of the Shisun Peak. With a history spanning over 1600 years since Zen Master Huili of the Eastern Jin Dynasty first established it, it's a site of rich cultural heritage. The distance between Lingyin Temple and Yongfuchan Temple is approximately 1 km, and around 15 minutes to walk.
- Peak Flown from Afar: Also known as Feilai Feng, the hill lies to the southwest of Hangzhou and is known for being completely composed of limestone, which is very rare in China. Lingyin Temple to Peak Flown From Afar, a 5-10 minute walk.
- West Lake: The West Lake, is located in the heart of Hangzhou, a place of beauty and historical significance. Lingyin Temple to West Lake about 10 km, 20-30 minutes by car.
- Song Dynasty Town: Experience the rich atmosphere of the Song Dynasty, watch the large-scale live-action performance "Song Dynasty Everlasting Love," and feel the integration of history with modernity.
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