Longxing Temple

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Considering its age – almost 1500 years old – we think this is one of the most impressive temples in northern China. It's certainly Zhengding’s star attraction. Popularly known as Dafo Temple (大佛寺, Dàfó Sì), or ‘Great Buddha Temple’, the complex contains an astonishing array of Buddhist statuary, housed in some stunning temple halls. Dating way back to AD 586, the temple has been much restored and stands divided from its spirit wall by Zhongshan Donglu.

The time-worn bridge out the front constitutes a handsome historical prelude. You are greeted in the first hall by the jovial Milefo (the laughing Buddha). The four Heavenly Kings flanking him in pairs are disconcertingly vast.

Beyond the ruined Hall of Sakyamuni's Six Teachers is the Manichaean Hall (摩尼殿, Móní Diàn), an astonishingly voluminous hall flagged in smoothed stone, with amazing carpentry overhead, a huge gilded statue of Sakyamuni and faded Ming frescoes detailing Buddhist tales. At the rear of the hall is a distinctly male statue of the goddess Guanyin, seated in a lithe pose with one foot resting on her/his thigh (a posture known as lalitásana) and surrounded by luóhàn (disciples freed from the cycle of rebirth).

The Buddhist Altar behind houses an unusual, bronze, Ming-dynasty two-faced Buddha, gazing north and south. Signs say ‘no touching’ but it’s evident that its fingers and thumb have been smoothed by legions of worshippers. There are two halls behind the Buddhist Altar. On the left is the Revolving Library Pavilion (转轮藏阁, Zhuānlúnzàng Gé), which contains a highly unusual revolving, octagonal, wooden bookcase for the storing of sutras, and some stele on the back of snarling bìxì (a mythical, tortoise-like dragon). Opposite stands the Pavilion of Kindness, containing a fabulous, 7.4m-high statue of Maitreya (the future Buddha), one hand aloft.

The immense Pavilion of Great Benevolence (大悲阁, Dàbēi Gé) contains Longxing Temple's real drawcard: a 21.3m-tall, bronze colossus of Guanyin. Cast in AD 971 and sporting a third eye, the effigy is wonderful, standing on a magnificently carved base from the Northern Song. Examine the carvings, which include myriad characters and musicians, including Buddhist angels (apsaras).

Circumambulated by worshippers, the Hall of Vairocana at the rear of the complex contains a four-faced Buddha (the Buddha of four directions), crowned with another four-faced Buddha, upon which is supported a further set. The entire statue and its base contain 1072 statues of Buddha in all.

The gardens right at the back contain scattered temple remains, including some very old stele and a triple-arched stone páilou (decorative archway), dating from 1591.

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