A Buddhist Kingdom

Visitors experience the sublime at Lingyin Temple

By: Christopher Batin

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Feilai Feng grottos with carved
statues and caves.
Few temples in China can compare to Lingyin, located in the West Lake area of Hangzhou. Known as the “Buddhist Kingdom of the Southeast,” its spectacular scenic hills, clear springs and streams draw people from around the world to sample its spiritual aura and harmony with nature. First built in 326 A.D., it is the largest temple in Hangzhou and is one of the 10 largest Zen Buddhist temples in China.

Advise your clients to take their time and walk through the limestone mountain Feilai Feng Grottos, which is a side trail to the main walkway leading to the temple. Inside the caves and along the limestone slopes are 345 well-preserved stone carvings dating back to the Yuan Dynasty.

The stone figurines carved into caves and into the mountainside are mesmerizing. The carefully landscaped scenery that has endured for hundreds of years, and the dense forests and trees, give this area a spiritual quality not found in man-made temples. The main trail is easy to walk. Clients should expect some difficult walking, however, when exploring the highland sections of the grotto.

Stories in English about the monastery throughout time are posted near the many pavilions and caves scattered in the surrounding forest. The well-worn paths lead your clients to Northern Peak, Taoguang Temple, Three Temples and Nine Miles of Pine. Have your clients take their time walking the path, especially when the fog is hanging low over the caves, before moving on to the temple buildings.

At its peak occupancy, the temple compound consisted of nine major buildings, 18 pavilions, 77 palace halls and 1,300 rooms for 3,000 monks. The temple has since seen many changes and reconstructions throughout China’s history, with the last major restoration in 1974. Ongoing maintenance keeps the colors and architectural lines vibrant. The temple is also one of the wealthiest in China.

The many temple halls are superbly decorated with dragons and depictions of Buddha’s life. At the center of the hall is China’s largest sitting Buddha statue that is carved out of 82 feet of camphor wood and completely covered in gold leaf. One of the temple rooms is 110 feet high, making it the highest, single-story temple room in China. Various demigods and saints complement the temple.

I highly recommend Ling Yin Restaurant dining. The food was among the best I have had in China. Ensure that your clients have lunch there. They won’t be disappointed.

While the temple can be enjoyed as a do-it-yourself tour, it is offered as an option on many group tours that visit Hangzhou.