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Longhua Temple

By Devik Balami at
Longhua Temple

Longhua Temple is a Buddhist Temple located in Shanghai, China. This temple preserves the architectural design of a song dynasty monastery of the Chan School. The Longhua Temple is the largest, most authentic and complete ancient temple complex which is dedicated to the Maitreya Buddha in the city of Shanghai.

Historical background of the Longhua Temple

The Longhua Temple was built in the mid 3rd century during the period of Three Kingdoms. As legend states that once Wu King, Sun Quan got the Sharira relics of Gautam Buddha. So, in order to houses this relic, the king ordered the fellow persons to construct the temple along with pagodas.

Later the temple was destroyed in the war and was again rebuilt in the Northern Song dynasty period with the style of Song dynasty architecture in the mid 10th century. Later in the Song dynasty in the mid 11th century Longhua temple was renamed as Kong Xiang Temple. The original name was restored only in the Ming dynasty during the reign of the Wanli Emperor. The temple was again renovated in the mid 20th century.

Architectural features of Longhua Temple

The Longhua Temple occupies an area of more than 20,000 sq. Meters. The main axis of the compound is 194 m long. The tallest structure is the Longhua Pagoda which stands at the height of 40.4 m

The temple consists of five halls which are built according to Sangharama Five-Hall Style of Buddhist Chan Sect. developed during Song dynasty. The five main halls are arranged along a central north-south axis. These five halls are Maitreya Hall, Heavenly King Hall, Grand Hall of Great Sage, Three Sages Hall, and Abbot's Hall.

Maitreya Hall: This hall houses statue of Maitreya Buddha.

Heavenly King Hall: This hall houses statues of the Four Heavenly Kings

Grand Hall of the Great Sage: This main hall is also called Mahavira Hall which houses Buddha statues and statue of his two disciples. This hall also houses carving of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara in his female manifestation. The hall also includes an ancient bell which was built in 1586 CE during the Wanli era of the Ming dynasty.

Three Sages Hall: This hall houses statues of Amitabha Buddha, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, and Mahasthamaprapta.

Abbot's Hall: This hall is used for providing lectures and formal meetings.

Another notable architecture of Longhua Temple is Longhua Pagoda, Bell Tower, and Library. As the halls are arranged in the central north-south axis, these mentioned architecture are arranged off the central axis.

The Longhua Pagoda is one of the best well-known 16 historic pagodas. The layout of this pagoda has an octagonal floor layout. The Pagoda has seven storey and the size decreases as we ascend upstairs. The pagoda consists of a hollow, tube-like brick core surrounded by a wooden staircase. As for the outer appearance of the Pagoda, the Pagoda is decorated with balconies, banisters, and beautifully upturned eaves. These outer decorations have been renovated by maintaining the original style.

The Bell Tower houses a copper bell cast in 1382. This bell is 2 m tall and has a maximum diameter of 1.3 m and weighs about 5 tons.

The Library houses various versions of Buddhist sutras and other Buddhist works, as well as Buddhist arts, ceremonial instruments, antiques, and artifacts.

The pagoda even after several renovations, existed on the same site where they were first built. The brick base and body of the pagoda was built in 977 under the Wuyue Kingdom. These pagodas were renovated continuously in order to maintain the aesthetic aspects of the pagoda. Even though the pagoda was renovated continuously, the pagoda is not open to the general public mainly due to the fragile wooden components and the age of the pagoda.