Bamboo Temple

Bamboo Temple, Qiongzhu Temple, Qiongzhusi

Bamboo Temple, Qiongzhu Temple, Qiongzhusi

Bamboo Temple

Why Go?
The sculpture of 500 arhats is considered as the “jewels in the art treasures of oriental sculpture”,
It’s the first Zen Temple in Yunnan Province.
Location and History
Bamboo Temple (Qiongzhu Temple) lies on the Yu’an Mountain, and it’s 10 kilometers northwest of Kunming. It owns a special appeal, in particular for the statues of 500 lifelike arhats. During the reign of Emperor Guanxu in Qing Dynasty, the well-known sculptor Li Guxiu from Sichuan Province came to this temple with five disciples. And it took them more than 7 years to sculpt the 500 arhats which are known as the “jewels in the art treasures of oriental sculpture.” Following the instructions of Li Guanxiu, most of the arhats in upper and lower tiers were arranged to sit and the middle arhats were made to stand. It’s said that Li Guanxiu sculpted the middle arhats because of their important position. The creation of the 500 arhats was a combination of realism and romanticism. Some images are creator’s expressions of the wild imaginations and bold exaggerations. For instance, an arhat is touching the moon with a long hand, another arhat has long legs which helps him go across the sea. Among these 500 arhats, each of them is different in gesture and facial expressions.
According to the principal of Buddhism, everyone can be a Buddha. So human spirit is thus conveyed through incarnations of gods.
Such artistic creations are identical with human beings in every possible way: the body ratio, the dresses, the muscles, and behaviors. It’s said that Li Guanxiu and his assistant stayed in Kunming for 2 months to observe local people’s activities and faces.
A legend about the Bamboo Temple.
Behind the origin of the temple, there is a story. It goes like that during the years of Emperor Zhenguan in Tang Dynasty, Duke of Shanchan in Kunming and his younger brother Gaozhi went hunting around Dianchi Lake at the foot of the western hills. They suddenly spotted a black rhino. They went after it for a long time. But when they came to Yu’an Mountain, the rhino suddenly disappeared and, instead, they saw several strange-looking monks macerating on the ground. Soon they came near, these monks vanished and some Qiongzhu Bamboo was left sticking into the ground. They tried the best to pull them out but in vain. In the next day, the two brothers came here to see the bamboos again. Only a luxuriant bamboo bush can be found. The two brothers believed that it must be an enlightenment of God and this place must be a sacred land of Buddhism. They raised money to build a temple here and named it “Qiongzhu Temple” or “Bamboo Temple”.

Firstly this temple was unknown in Kunming. Until 1279, it gained great reputation due to the eloquent master who came here to give Buddhism lectures. This master adopted the monatomic life during his childhood. He was the best student of Yang Ziyun, known as the national master of Dali State. Later, he went to Hennan Province to learn Buddhism for 25 years. Finally he achieved great progress in Buddhism and he became a knowledgeable monk. Kublaikan (the fourth Emperor of Yuan Dynasty) granted him a Buddhism name “Hongjing”. After he came back to Kunming, he started studying canon of Changing (a major sect of Mahayana Buddhism). This is the reason why the Bamboo Temple is the first Zen temple in Yunnan. This master studied and promoted Buddhism in the Bamboo Temple for 22 years.

The highlight at the Bamboo Temple is the 500 Arhats, which are separately placed in the Tiantailai Pavilion, Fanyin Pavilion and the the Grand Hall. There are 216 in the Tiantailai Pavilion, 216 in Fanyin Pavilion and 68 in the Grand Hall.

What’s an arhat?
In Buddhism, arhat is a position of attainment, which is lower than Buddha and Bodhisattva. Arhat is very different from Buddha and Bodhisattva because Buddha cannot only deliver himself and others but also deliver all beings; Bodhisattva can deliver himself and others but is unable to deliver all beings. Arhat can only deliver himself. After reaching the position of an arhat, it will be free from all troubles. Described by Buddhism scriptures, the 500 arhats always followed Sakyamuni in his service. After the death of Sakyamuni, there were 500 mendicant at the first assembly. Chinese started to enshrine ahats from the Eastern Jin Dynasty and its worship reached the climax during the Qing Dynasty.

Travel Tips of Sightseeing in a temple
Never step on the doorsill when you are visiting a Chinese temple, it’s impolite for monks;
Don’t take photos in the building of a temple, especially never take photos towards gods in a temple;
The living room, restaurant, bedroom and private courtyard are forbidden to visit;
Show good manners to monks and nuns;
Don’t touch any statues in a temple;

Getting There and Away
There is a bus leaving from Yushujuyuan 云南艺术剧院 (Artistic House). It departs almost every hour. Don’t go to this temple too late, otherwise you cannot find any vehicle to return to the downtown of Kunming.

Nearby Attraction
Hump Flight Museum, Golden Temple, Western Hills, Green Lake Park, Bird and Flower Market.

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