Botanists Find Enlightenment at Dajue Temple2016-05-13 12:41:00Share:
As the weather fast forwards into spring and summer, leaves spontaneously unfurl outof skeletal branches, and flower buds suddenly explode into colour. Oddly, one of thebest places to witness this change of the seasons is in Dajue Temple: a spot at thebase of Yangtai Mountain (Beijing's Haidain District) where Buddhists have managed to overlook austerity inorder to create temple grounds which are a dream for botanists and landscapearchitects.
In early April, the white magnolias draw the flower aficionados. These sensual andfragrant blossoms appear in abundance for a tantalizingly short window of time,voraciously eating up camera memory cards. If visitors miss the magnolia bloom, theycan enjoy other flowers and a lovely terraced garden that may be short on greenerydepending on the time of year.
Even if Dajue had no flowers, the thousand-year-old temple is still well-worth a visit. Aseries of five halls scale the mountain, housing some of Beijing's most beautiful andwell-preserved Buddhist statues.
Large scale and disturbingly spooky representations of gods such as Vaisravana andDhrita-rastra occupy the first hall, protecting the grounds.
Trios of serene bronze Buddhas await devotees in both the Mahavira and Amitabhahalls. The oversize Buddhas are elegantly crafted and life-like. Life-sized figures linethe sides of the Amitabha Hall, also lovingly detailed by the hands of craftsmen.
It's not uncommon for temples to have Buddha statues that look like they just came offthe plastics assembly line, but at Dajue, each statue is particularly well-preserved, whilemaintaining a sense of the ancient.
In the 1400s, the temple did have several renovations which helped to maintain thetemple's original structures and contents. More recent renovations have turned theuppermost halls into a painting store and an information exhibit. They're not exactlyhistoric, but they're comfortable enough.
The whole place is, actually. There's even a reasonably posh restaurant and teahousecourtyard where spring water bubbles down a canal system. Admittedly, theenvironment may be a tad opulent for ascetic-minded Buddhists, and the food isn'texactly vegetarian either.
Dajue temple may not be the most devout place of Buddhist worship, and it's a bit of atrek to get there, but the beautiful flowers, garden and grounds as well as the incrediblereligious art work on display definitely make the trip out worthwhile. Dajue's namemeans "Temple of Great Awakening," and if monks aren't attaining enlightenment hereanymore, at least the flowers are finding their own great awakenings.
Dajue Temple in Fall
Admission: 20 rmb
Getting there: Bus No. 346 from the north gate of Summer Palace. Get off atZhoujiaxiang and walk 1.5 km northwest.
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