Monday, September 22, 2008

Grand Temple of Mount Heng

Grand Temple of Mount Heng, or Grand Temple of South Mountain is located at the foot of , and on the north of ancient town of Mount Heng. It is the largest temple on Mount Heng, and it is also the largest and most complete palace-style temple of in China. It is a major component of Mount Heng National Key Tourist Resort Zone.


The Grand Temple was initially called Heaven Governor Huo King Temple , and later, the name changed to South Heaven Genuine Master Temple . Its founding year is unknown. The earliest documented records show that it was built in Kaiyuan 13th year of Tang Dynasty. The temple experienced , , and Dynasties, having suffered six fires and undergone 16 large-scale renovations. At the end of Ming Dynasty, the temple was burnt in the war. In Guangxu 8th year of Qing Dynasty, the temple was rebuilt following the layout of Forbidden City in Beijing, thus it was also called "Little Palace in South China". The majority of the buildings have been preserved till today. During Cultural Revolution, the temple was regarded as "Four Olds", and suffered severe damages. The stone tablets, inscribed boards, Buddhist statutes and scripts were all destroyed. Starting in 1980s, continuous renovation projects have rehabilitated destructed buildings and statues.


The temple covers a land area of over 98,500 square meters. Along its axis there are 9 major buildings. From south to north, they are Lingxing Gate, Kuixing Pavilion, Zhengchuan Gate, Imperial Tablet Pavilion, Jiaying Gate, Imperial Liberary Tower, Grand Hall, Refreshing Palace and North Hind Gate. Its eastern and western sides accommodate Eight Temples of Taoism and Eight Temples of Buddhism.

The name of Lingxing Gate means abundant talents emerge and serve the country. Usually, "Lingxing" wouldn't be used to name a temple gate. There're only two exceptions in China, and the other Lingxing Gate is in Temple of Confucius. Kuixing Pavilion is also called "Panlong Pavilion" . It has double-eave two-curve roof and covers 139 sq. meters. It serves as an opera stage.


Three religions, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucius, co-exist in the Grand Temple of Mount Heng. Eight Temples of Taoism, Eight Temples of Buddhism and Imperial Library Tower represent the convergence of three religions. The temple enjoys great popularity among devotees. Large Buddhist festivals are held in Buddhist holidays each year. Pilgrims come not only from nearby Hunan and Guangdong, but also from Hong Kong, Macao, Southeast Asia and Japan. There was originally a statute of Mountain God in the Grand Hall, to which the past emperors all paid tribute. In early Tang Dynasty, the god was designated "Heavenly Governor Huo King". In Kaiyuan years of Tang, it was titled "Genuine Master of Mount Heng". In Song Dynasty, it was named "Heavenly Governor Zhaosheng Emperor". Today, the existent "Superior Emperor of Mount Heng" was rebuilt in 1983, for the original statute was destroyed in Cultural Revolution. There are also two "Treasury Houses" on each side of the Grand Hall. Facing from the hall, the one on the left side is designed for worship by living people, while the one on the right hosts the name boards of the deceased.

In 1990, the Chinese National Post Bureau issued a series of Mount Heng stamps , comprising 4 pieces. The first one, "Grand Temple", depicted this temple.

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