Puguang Chan Temple – Part I
It gets a little mention in the local brochures and leaflets, but they never clearly state that it is actually in the very city centre of Zhangjiajie, just that it is in the east of the county. A bit like describing St Paul’s Cathedral as being “south of Milton Keynes”. Curious.
Perhaps even more sublime is that it is almost opposite Kentucky Fried Chicken.
It was first built in 1413, by the local miltary governor, Yong Jian, then rebuilt in 1743 by Shi Chengyun during the reign of the Ming emperor Yongzheng. It grew to become a subtantial monastery of the Linji sect, and in the first half of the 20th Century became one of the most important political centres of Buddhism in southern China.
The temple has a series of doors beyond the current front entrance that are varied in style and are particularly attractive, with many expressive stone carvings. Beyond these, and offset is the Mountain Gate, with just two ferocious guardians, Hem and Ham, welcoming – and warning – visitors.
There is a second Mountain Gate, unusually, where the more customary four heavenly kings and guardians reside, and further back the main Buddha Hall with very nice dragons climbing the two main front columns. Most of this part of the temple dates from the 18th Century and, again, unusually, the temple has a wonderful worn look, the paint faded and mellow. It all oozes charm and spirituality. In side buildings, monks and nuns go about their business; there is a strong feeling of kindness and gentleness here. Note the Buddhist tales carved on the doors, including summaries of some of the great exploratory journeys of early Chinese Buddhists including, naturally, Xuanzang’s journey to the West.