The Temple of the soul retreat in Hangzhou in 1930s

On the left side was a densely wooded rocky hill. Its steep slope was carved into fantastic figures of unicorns, leogryphs and other mythological animals, and statues of gods and saints. They had been fashioned out of rock by the monks more than fifteen centuries ago. Under the hill were grottoes and caves filled with Buddhas and genii, where pilgrims were burning incense. Mantras in Sanskrit and archaic Chinese adorned the rocks, chiselled by the long departed hermits.]

Walking a little farther we came to the spacious entrance hall of a monastery which was unique in China in its grandeur, sanctity.

‘The Monastery of the Spirit’s Retreat’, softly exclaimed Chungan pointing to the three huge golden characters over the wide-open doors of the hall.

‘What a deep and secret meaning these words possess ! ‘ he continued. ‘It is a fitting name for this place, for it is difficult to conceive a better hermitage for the spirit of a man tired of the world and seeking concealment amidst the beautiful and tranquil.

Having emerged from this hall with its golden statue of Maitreya, the Lord Buddha of the Future, we stepped out into a large stone-flagged courtyard bounded by ancient trees. In front of them, on a high stone platform, flanked by two small pagodas and with a massive bronze incense burner in the middle, stood the main temple hall. its great height and immense size dwarfed all other buildings around it. The roof rose in three nobly curved tiers supported by colossal red wooden pillars.

The latticed gates of the hall were open as we came in. A mysterious semi-darkness, heavy with the odour of sandal-wood incense, pervaded the place. Right in the middle of the vast temple sat three golden Buddhas of such unbelievable majesty and of such gigantic proportions that when I saw them I was astonished. The images rested on lotus flowers which, in turn, were supported by stupendous stone pedestals. A colossal lantern, richly carved and decorated, with a perpetually-burning oil-lamp within, was suspended in front of the Trinity.

The central figure was that of the Lord Buddha himself with his royal coiffure and a sign of urna on his forehead. With the eyes turned inwards, gazing not at the world outside before him but at the world within himself; with his enigmatic smile, he sat there a true image of the man that he once was, but who had transcended all human emotions, desires, all suffering and mundane joy; who had found the lost path to Heaven and shown it to suffering mankind, and who at last had entered Nirvana and became himself a God. I gazed enchanted at the mystic statue. I felt mesmerized by the utter stillness of the temple. Clouds of incense floated in spirals towards the lofty ceiling and gently dissolved there in the golden rays of the sun coming through the narrow windows. The very silence was pregnant with the meaning of things unsaid, of prayers uttered and of petitions yet unoffered.

After we had finished our tour of the golden statues of arhats, lining the walls, and paused before an enormous image of the gentle Goddess Kwanyin, which stood against an altar piece representing the Western Paradise, we made our exit by a side door into a commodious guest hall where a young novice brought us cups of the monastery’s own tea. He smiled at Chungan and Tsungpoo, evidently recognizing them as frequent visitors. After a good rest we were ready to proceed to the next famous temple.

Goullart, Peter. Monastery of the Jade Mountain.

Peter Goullart. The monastery of Jade Mountain.

More posts on Chinese culture

Spirits possession in ancient China
Spirits possession in ancient China

Spirits possession in ancient China. I have just finished reading The Ancestors Are Drunk, a book by Jordan Paper. Perhaps one of the best books on the religion of China that can be found, because with every chapter, almost with every page, he opens new windows,...

Yan Lianke. The Four Books
Yan Lianke. The Four Books

Yan Lianke. The Four Books The Four Books refers to the famous Four Books of Confucius, the basis of Chinese thought for two millennia. And like those of Confucius, these by Yan Lianke could become a new model for understanding the glories and miseries of human...

Lao She Cat Country
Lao She Cat Country

Cat Country - Lao She Sometimes we say that a poet or a writer writes with his blood, and there are many occasions in which writers end up paying with their lives for having written a book. This is possibly one of them, and we can say that Lao She paid with his life...

The top 10 gods in 20th century Sichuan
The top 10 gods in 20th century Sichuan

he top 10 deities in 20th century Sichuan And we assume that there will be no major differences with the most popular ones in other parts of China, except on the coast, where the Empress of Heaven (Tianhuo), patron goddess of sailors, would be in the leading...

Notes on Chinese Medicine
Notes on Chinese Medicine

Notes on the Chinese Medicine Chinese medicine is the most important non-Western medicine, and it is the only one of the medicines developed by non-Western countries that has managed, throughout history, to face the continuous achievements and advances of Western...

More posts on China ethnic groups

Wonderful- yaks most precious treasure is their manure
Wonderful- yaks most precious treasure is their manure

Wonderful- yaks most precious treasure is their manure                 Most of the travelers who visited Tibet in former times noticed the importance that, for the maintenance of the living of the Tibetan nomads and travellers, had the Yak manure, known among the...

Life of Milarepa, the hermit poet
Life of Milarepa, the hermit poet

Life of Milarepa, the hermit poet. MiIarepa is one of the most beloved religious leaders of Tibet. His story, full of unique facts, has been told again and again over the centuries, and if the publishers did not warn that this is the autobiography written by the holy...

The first description of the Religion of the Yi
The first description of the Religion of the Yi

The first description of the Religion of the Yi By Father François Louis Crabouillet in 1872. The religion of the Lolos[i] is that of sorcerers: it consists only of conjurations of evil spirits, according to them, the only authors of evil. Without being devout like...

Tibetans, the people who descend from the monkey
Tibetans, the people who descend from the monkey

Tibetans, the people who descend from the monkey According to an ancient myth, the Tibetans originated from the union of an ogress (raksasi) and a monkey. The monkey was sent by Avalokitesvara, Mother Buddha, to sow the seed of Buddhism in these lands. One day, an...

The sung funeral of the Kucong of China
The sung funeral of the Kucong of China

The sung funeral of the Kucong Among the Kucong, one of the peoples who have most persistently maintained their isolation in the mountainous areas on the border of China and Laos, the different stages of the funeral are celebrated through music, which gives the...

The magical world of Yao painting. Jean Pierre Cormerais
The magical world of Yao painting. Jean Pierre Cormerais

The magical world of Yao painting. Jean Pierre Cormerais The Yao ceremonial paintings, the masterworks of the Yao people, nowadays are spread across much of Southeast Asia, increasingly fascinated art lovers worldwide after the apparition of the first paintings in...

Pin It on Pinterest