And now for a little history.....
The Grand Buddha carving started in 713AD and was completed in 803AD. Can you imagine working for that long? Well obviously it wasn't the same workers from start to finish as Im sure it would have taken them another hundred years on top of that! An official from the Tang Dynasty praised it as 'A golden figure of one hundred Zhang(a length measurement) shining in the green cliff; ten thousand lamps of the shrine chopping the pillar of smoke'. Well you make out what you can from that, but I think what he meant to say was that it was 'bloody marvellous!'
The erecting was positive to the development and spreading of new Buddhist ideas, but before the founding of the New China, it suffered many natural and human disasters. The reparation before 1949 was mostly carried out by worshippers, therefore things were done on a small scale with hardly any scientific devices.
Wenshu Yuan - Wenshu Temple - Part I
The Wenshu Temple is in the northern part of the city centre, and is the largest and most active Buddhist temple in Chengdu, with a constant throng of worshippers and the curious. It is a very active temple and now the focus of Buddhism in the city, but also is on the tourist trail because of its excellent vegetarian restaurant.
The temple dates back to the Sui Dynasty, when it was called the Xinxiang Temple, but the buildings are all from the Qing Dynasty - many appear to be even more recent. Most of the halls were built in 1697 by that great temple-benefactor Emperor Kangxi and then substantially renovated in the early 19th Century.
The temple has many representations of Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom - or Wenshu in Chinese - which is rather unusual. Not uncoincidentally, the Wenshu Yuan is also a major repository of Buddhist scripts, texts, art and artefacts, some of which are on display. The most notable is part of the skull of Xuanzang, the monk who brought Buddhism to China from India. However, it would seem more likely that if anywhere would have a piece of his skull it would be the smaller Daci temple, also in the centre of Chengdu, where Xuanzang lived for a period. The skull fragment is laid in the base of the slender stupa to the east of the main temple halls.
Chengdu, Panda capital of the wolrd
Chengdu is famous for its Panda research center. Here they breed the Giant Panda, an animal on the edge of extinction. The Giant Panda has its normal habitat in this region too. It lives in bambooforests, because all the giant animal eats is bamboo. That is the main reason for its decline. The bamboo forests are making place for farmlands and cities. The center also has the red panda, a much smaller creature and looking completely different, more foxlike with a reddish color.
about the center:
- http://www.panda.org.cn/, official site of the center.
about the panda: http://www.giantpandabear.com/
We visited the park where the research center is located and took heaps of pictures of the Pandas.
They all have fairly large enclosures and we were lucky enough to see some that had just been given fresh bamboo. Another encloser had a few young pandas, aged between 1 and 2 years. They were very playful, and tried to climb on everything.
It was not always a succes.
We made a two short movies, one of the adult pandas eating and one of the young panda falling of his branch. You can see them here
As Chengdu is located in the south of China it is hot in summer, and we decided it was time to unwind. A visit to a real chinese teagarden at the grounds of the Wenshu temple was the choice.