Monday, September 22, 2008

Foguang Temple

Foguang Temple is a temple located five kilometers away from Doucun, Wutai County, Shanxi Province of China. The major hall of the temple is the East Hall, built in 857 AD, during the Tang Dynasty . According to architectural records, it is the third earliest preserved timber structure in China. It was discovered by the 20th century architectural historian Liang Sicheng in 1937, while the older hall at Nanchan Temple was discovered by the same team a year later. The temple also contains two other halls, one dating from 1137, and one dating from the Ming Dynasty. In addition, the second oldest pagoda in China , dating from the 6th century, is located in the temple grounds.


The temple was established in the fifth century. In 857, the East hall was built on the site of a three story pavilion that had been destroyed. A woman named Ning Gongyu provided most of the funds needed to construct the hall, and its construction was led by a monk named Yuancheng. In 1147 of the Jin Dynasty, the Manjusri Hall was constructed on the temple's north side. In 1930, the Society for Research in Chinese Architecture began a search in China for ancient buildings. In the seventh year of the society's search in 1937, an architectural team led by Liang Sicheng rediscovered the Foguang Temple.


Unlike most other Chinese temples, the Foguang temple is oriented in an East-West position due to there being mountains located on the east, north and south. The temple consists of three main halls. The southern hall is called The Hall of Sangahara and was built during the Chongshen period of the Ming Dynasty. The northern hall is called The Hall of Manjusri and was constructed in 1147 of the Jin Dynasty. The largest hall, The Great Eastern Hall was constructed in 857 during the Tang Dynasty.

East Hall

Dating from 857 of the Tang Dynasty, this hall is the third oldest extant wooden building in China after the main hall of the Nanchan Temple dated to 782, and the main hall of the Five Dragons Temple, dated to 831. The hall is located on the far east side of the temple, atop a large stone platform. It is a single story structure that measures seven bays by four and is supported an inner and outer set of columns. On top of each of the columns is a complicated set of brackets containing seven different that are one-third as high as the column itself. Supporting the roof of the hall, each of the bracket sets are connected by crescent shaped crossbeams, which create an inner ring above the inner set of columns and an outer ring above the outer columns. The hall has a lattice ceiling that conceals much of the roof frame from view. The hipped-roof of the East Hall and the extremely complex bracket sets are testament to the East Hall's importance as a structure during the Tang Dynasty. According the 11th century architectural treatise, ''Yingzao Fashi'', the East Hall closely corresponds to a seventh rank building in a system of eight ranks. The high rank of the East hall indicates that even in the Tang Dynasty it was an important building, and no other buildings from the period with such a high rank survive.

Hall of Manjusri

On the north side of the temple courtyard is the Manjusri Hall, constructed in 1137 of the . It is roughly the same size as the East Hall, also measuring seven bays by four. On the walls inside are a variety of murals painted during the Ming dynasty.

Hall of Sanghagara

Located on the south side of the main temple courtyard, this hall dates from the Chongzhen Period of the Ming Dynasty, and was renovated during the Kangxi period of the Qing Dynasty. It is quite small, containing only three bays, and is nearly a square. Inside is a statue of Sanghagara, the guardian of Buddha flanked by eighteen other guardians.

Zushi Pagoda

There is a small funerary pagoda located next to the south of the East Hall called the Zushi Pgoda. While it is unclear as to the exact date of its construction, it was either built during the Northern Wei Dynasty or Northern Qi Dynasty and possibly contains the tomb of the founder of the Foguang Temple.
It is a white, hexagonal shaped pagoda built from bricks that is six meters tall. The first story of the pagoda has a hexagonal chamber that originally housed Buddhist statues, while the second story is purely decorative. The second story of the pagoda contains traces of Indian influence, especially in the decorative lotus petals on the corner columns. The steeple also has carved lotus flowers that support a precious bottle in the shape of a flower.

No comments: