Story of Buddhist Temple
This is the most magnificent building of the village. Because of it many “outsiders” came to visit this village at days of special significance.
Personally I had much more fun feeding our chickens (they reached my waist-height since when I was a little kid, so they weren’t scared of me :)) and running about the hills, finding twigs to make bows and arrows, than spending time at this magnificent temple complex. But as I grew, I paid this Buddhist temple visits more frequently. A decade ago the buddhist temple underwent a reconstruction/improvement, and now it’s even more impressive than the one in my memory.
I infrequently saw a few monks heading down the hill from the temple in a small group. They each dressed in a Buddhist robe, head clean shaven, each holding a loop of prayer beads. Aside from these occasional encounters up & down the hill, I found the entire buddhist temple rather devoid of staffs.
There are two major parts to this temple. The lower portion contained a large (at least 50 feet in height, to my reckoning) facade with three large wooden red doors. Often the left and the center doors were locked with wooden poles slotted horizontally across the doors from the other side. Upon entering one saw a square with paved stone roads that surround a pond. A tall Guanyin (Bodhisattva) statue with a posture of gently pouring a vase of life water underneath, towered above the pond. The carved lotus flower which the Guanyin stood herself on has a popular presence in Buddhism.
There at least used to be turtles in the pond, where the Guanyin stood. Now regarding these turtles: I highly suspected that they found home in this pond because of the kindness of temple monks or construction workers. Perhaps the longevity of turtles in general prompted the choice of leaving them in this pond in this Buddhist temple. But the sad part was, I occasionally encountered poachers fishing for turtles with nets attached on the end of a pole. One time it was a staff-looking personnel, and oddly enough I was inclined to believe that he was saving the turtles from the limited ecology within the pond. He explained his intention as so, then walked off with the turtles. I hoped the turtle made it back to the wild. The other time, a kid in student dress was muddling with the turtles in the same pond as well, clearly with the intention of catching a turtle from the pond and playing with it.
The more frequent interactions visitors have with this pond, though, were tossing spare coins into it. Some would do so in the hope of good luck, others would do so in the hope of having certain wishes fulfilled. I once did it for the heck of it. I think that some people are expecting too much from deities like the Guanyin. Plus, instead of coins, wouldn’t it make more sense to toss turtle-friendly food/feed and wish whatever you like? Coin tossing can be problematic over time, especially in a body of still water (villagers have told me how running water in a stream will regenerate itself, unlike a pool of still water). Chemicals from coins may cause chemical reactions and promote the growth of certain bacteria. This is proven in the case of the Morning Glory Pool in Wyoming, USA. Yet some said the bacteria and what not on coins would multiply themselves in a body of water, causing the creatures in the water to be sick. I took notice that the pond water had a slight shade of green, indicating a formation of some algae. Hope these turtles and algae will be continuously nourished by the imaginary water poured from the Bodhisattva.
A small temple building could be found behind this lower temple complex. Its base was perfectly square, with corridors surrounding a stone tablet. The text on the tablet, written in old Chinese, has long faded in my memory. One time I was caught in this temple in an autumn downpour, and found the corridors a great place to stay very dry and chill. A small garden could be found behind this temple building.
The upper temple complex could be ascended from here. By comparison, it’s much larger in size. In fact, visitors tended to bypass the lower temple complex altogether for the sake of visiting the upper temple complex. On special days, villagers brought incenses to the central square in the upper temple complex. By the stone steps leading to the central temple room (where a large statue of Buddha was), villagers offerred lit incenses to large incense burners, in the open as well as indoor.
At the base of the stone steps leading to the central temple room were two stone lions that reflected jaw-dropping mason-ship. The mouth of each stone lion was wide open, bounded by the teeth and the tongue formed a bent oral channel. WITHIN the oral channel there was a stone ball, smooth enough to be roll along the channel, large enough not to fall outside of it. Similarly, each lion placed one front paw on a stone sphere, which was hollow and enclosed a smaller stone ball within it. Again, the smaller stone ball was smooth enough to roll around freely, but large enough to be confined by its outer sphere. Each stone lion was constructed out of a single large stone boulder. Perhaps I confused it with other stone lions in the village, but some of the older, original stone lions were definitely reflections of such superb stone crafting skills.
When visiting the temple, one shouldn’t miss the large statue of Buddha, accompanied by Four Heavenly Kings, each of them guarding a kindgom in one direction (North, South, West & East). Comparing to the kind, calm, meditative Buddha, these four deities were ferocious and brightly painted. The North Heavenly King wielded an umbrella; the South Heavenly King welded a sword; the East Heavenly King always carried a pipa (similar to a lute); the West Heavenly King carried a dragon in his hand. They were all fully cladded, with ribbon strips from clothing rising up in the air, seemed as if they descended from the heaven just now. Although the interior of the room was reasonably spacious, the statures of the Buddha and the Four Heavenly Kings were humongous beyond belief, so I always found myself within easy each of the umbrella, sword, or the dragon’s reach from three of the four fully armored, ferocious Kings. 😦 Despite they were guardians in folklore, it always put me in great discomfort in that central temple toom for that simple reason. It’s enjoyable to meditate next to a towering, benevolent Buddha, but not when four giant ferocious deities, wielding dragon and sword of sizes of a canoe. It didn’t help that all these Four Heavenly Kings looked rather, well, buffed up. 🙂