Famen Temple Cultural Scenic Area
Famen Temple, renowned for storing the veritable Finger Bone of the Sakyamuni Buddha, is located in Fufeng County of Shaanxi Province, 120km east of Xian and 96km west of Baoji. With a history of 1,700 years, Famen Temple is considered the "Forerunner of the Ziggurat in Central Shaanxi." The Famen Temple Cultural Scenic Area comprises four sectors including the Temple Gate Square, Foguang Avenue, Famen Temple, and the Namaste Dagoba. Upon completion the scenic area will be the "No. 2 Cultural Symbol of Shaanxi", second only to the Terra-Cotta Warriors and Horses. It will stand out as a world-class cultural scenic area featuring the "Time-honored Buddhist Holy Land and Age-old Classic Buddhist Site."
Between Temple Gate Square and Foguang Avenue stand four gates, Foguang Gate, Prajna Gate, Bodhi Gate and Perfect Wisdom Gate. Foguang Gate is where the light of Buddha is said to deliver all beings from torment and guide them to the Buddhist Faramita. Inside the Foguang Gate are two still water pools known as the "Heart-Pacifying Pools." As a sacred symbol of Buddhism, the lotus flower living in mud, but not stained by it, signifies the purity of Buddhists in the impure material world. Prajna refers to the great wisdom of Buddhism. The Prajna Gate means that during Buddhist medication, only by observing the guidance from prajna, can perfect wisdom and the most supreme Buddhist enlightenment be achieved. Bodhi means enlightenment and wisdom. By passing through the Bodhi, one can awaken to Buddha dharma and reach superior Buddhist thought. The architectural design of the Perfect Wisdom Gate, which consists of gateposts only, shows the Buddha dharma that is attained by observing sunyata (the nature of the void). So, the Perfect Wisdom Gate is also called "Gate of Sunyata."
Covering an area of 140,000sq km, Foguang Avenue is 1230m long and 108m wide. As the main axis, it divides the Scenic Area into the Western Section and the Eastern Section. The Eastern Section, named "Famous Site of Buddha", displays the whole process from birth to nirvana of Sakyamuni. The Western Section, named "Source of Buddhist Realm", exhibits the great advance of Buddhism ever since Sakyamuni achieved nirvana. Along the Foguang Avenue are ten statues of well-known Bodhisattva.
ln China, many temples house treasures and artifacts,but the sheer quantity and quality of treasures in the Famen Temple is rare. Situated in Famen Town of Fufeng County， about 120 kilometers (about 74.57 miles) west of Xian, Famen Temple is renowned for storing the veritable Finger Bone of the Sakyamuni Buddha.
Famen Temple was established in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25--220), for carrying forward Buddhism. The most representative structures in the temple are the Famen Temple Pagoda and Famen Temple Museum.
At the center of the temple is the 13-tiered octagonal pagoda under which it is said, a sliver of the finger bone of Sakyamuni buried. In 1981,subsidence of the pagoda led to reconstruction, during which， an Underground Palace was discovered unexpectedly in 1987. Many royal treasures and jewellery were found here-more than 2,000 pieces surrounded the Tang mandala (geometric designs,usually circular, symbolizing the universe). The most precious one is the veritable Finger Bone of the Sakyamuni Buddha. At present,this is the biggest Buddhist underground palace so far discovered. From the grand architectural style, it is said to have been established in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). But why, and how such precious treasures were stored under the pagoda. Tracing back to a most flourishing time in Chinese history, formerly, Famen Temple was the royal temple during the Sui Dynasty (581-618) and Tang Dynasty. Emperors in Sui and Tang believed that enshrining and worshiping the bone of Sakyamuni would bring riches and peace to the land and its people. So an offering of treasure to the finger bone was made,it was housed in the Underground Palace.
On April 1987, the outer gate was opened, revealing a series of three chambers of black stone. They were partitioned by stone gates each of which was decorated with relief sculptures, the most graphic motifs being phoenixes and lotus blossoms. to their astonishment, the archaeologists found that the objects inside tallied exactly with the inventory engraved on the stele at the entrance. But what of the sacred remains?
The first relic or sarira was found in an exquisitely executed container of eight interested cases in the back chamber of the underground shelter. It was taken of Fufeng County Museum and opened there at a ceremony presided over by the abbot of Famen Monastery at 1.15 in the morning on May 5, coinciding with the eighth day of the fourth month of the lunar calendar and the 2, 553rd anniversary of the birth of Sakyamuni.
Abbot Cheng Guan chanted prayers as an archaeologist carefully unsealed one case after another, each of which was secured by a silver top, but this was already very rotten when it was found. The seven interior cases were either gilded or inlaid with silver, pearls or gems, all very magnificent and elegant. Some of them were incised or carved with Buddhist tales in linear strokes. The innermost container was a four-door miniature pagoda with single-tier eaves, topped with a pearl. The hollow sarira was set on a silver pillar inside the gold mini-pagoda. Finally from the mini-pagoda the archaeologist extracted the ivory-white object 40.3 millimeters long, said to be a section of Sakyamuni's middle finger.
Due to the appropriate collection and further expounding of the cultural connotations of the treasures to the public， the Famen Temple Museum was established in 1987, which includes most of the precious treasures from the Tang Dynasty removed from Underground Palace,including gold and silverware,colored glaze ware, porcelain and silks. Owing to more and more tourists and their curiosity to the relics,two new exhibition halls were established in 2000. The exhibition area expanded from 500 square meters to 3,000 square meters， which well caters for the interest of tourists.
Namaste Dagoba was completed on May 9, 2009 after construction for 3 years. The Namaste Dagoba is used to enshrine the only relic of Sakyamuni's finger bone in the world. The full height of the dagoba is 148m. The numbers "148" were chosen because the "1", symbolizes that the Buddha does not differ from all other beings. The Buddha is only the awakened being while other beings are yet to be enlightened. The "4" and "8" denote the 8th day of the 4th lunar month, the birthday of Buddha. The architectural design of Namaste Dagoba represents the Buddhist thought of unification, concord harmony and peace. The one and only relic of Sakyamuni's finger bone in the world was enshrined in the underground palace in the Namaste Dagoba. The finger bone is brought up to the first floor at the Namaste Dagoba on the 1st day and 15th day of each lunar month plus Saturdays and Sundays for tourists and devotees to pay homage.
Nowadays,Famen Temple, which is the most famous Buddhist temple, plays a sovereign role in Chinese Buddhism,and appeals to tourists from all over the world.
Simatai Great Wall Travel Information:
||CNY120 for a thorough visit to Famen Temple, Famen Temple Museum and Namaste Dagoba|
||08:00 to 17:30 (Mar. to Nov.); 08:30 to 17:00 (Nov. to Feb.)|
time for a visit:
||1. Take Tourist Bus No.2 at Xi'an Railway Station, get off at Famensi Bowuguan (Famen Temple Museum) station.|
2. Take Long-distance Bus bound for Famen Temple at Xi'an Western Passenger Bus Station.
3. Take Long-distance Bus bound for Fufeng County at Xi'an Western Passenger Bus Station and then change to the bus bound for Famen Temple.
4. Visitors holding valid entrance ticket of Famen Temple can take free tourist bus "Sheng Tang Zhi Lv" at the west gate of the Tang Paradise. The buses depart at 08:00, 09:00, 10:00 and 11:00 and return at 14:30, 15:00, 15:30 and 16:00.
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