The first Kaiyuan Temple was built in 738 AD in the 26th year of the reign of Emperor Xuanzong. So the site is about 1,200 years old. The complex has been redesigned or reconstructed ten times since then. The present building that is made of wood and stone is about 200 years old. It looks similar to the Todai-ji Buddhist Temple in Nara, Japan. The present temple building is made of wood and stone. The framework has tenons that lock into each other and brackets that help to support the weight of the building. The top of the temple is decorated with glazed tile. The building looks run-down. The temple is important for Buddhist scholarship in China because a complete set of Buddhist scriptures is housed there. After a thousand years of wars and natural calamities like typhoons, the Kaiyuan Temple has ancient Tang Dynasty and Song Dynasty architectural styles, and artifacts from dynasties as far back as the Tang Dynasty are housed there.
According to archaeologists, the Song architectural style of this building is similar to that of the famous Todai-ji Temple in Japan. The buildings look somewhat similar, but the Kaiyuan building is much smaller and shorter. The second story of the Kaiyuan building is much lower than that of the Todai-ji. It Is interesting that both buildings were built a few hundred years ago – the Todai-ji Temple was built about 300 years ago and the Kaiyuan Temple was built about 200 years ago.
The temple has a big bronze bell that is 1.7 meters high and 1.05 meters in circumference. It weighs more than 1,500 kilograms. This bell was made by the Chaozhou Diamond Sutra Agent in 1114 AD and is in good condition. It still rings.
At the front of the Great Hall, there are 78 stone enclosures with beautiful carvings. Among these carvings, some show scenes from Buddhist stories and some show natural scenes. In the middle of the Great Hall, there is a big stone enclosure with some Chinese characters carved on it. All the stone enclosures are cultural relics.
There is a red bronze censer in the temple. It is said that this censer was donated by a Korean monk in the Tang Dynasty. There are words on it that tell people the history of the censer.
In addition, there is a gold and lacquer wood pagoda from the Ming Dynasty period in the temple that is 6 feet tall and has a hexagonal outline. There are seven levels in it that each have a theme. Most of the carvings relate to Buddha. This pagoda has a complex and beautifully carved structure.
In the scripture storing tower, there is a set of scriptures called Stored Dragon or Dragon Hiding . It was published in the Qing Dynasty, and has been preserved since then. This is a complete set, and 7,240 volumes were put in 724 parcels. In the Qing Dynasty, there were only 100 Dragon Store books made. This set was preserved by the Monk Jinghui.
In 1987, the State Bureau of Cultural Relics and State Bureau of Publication granted approval to publish the Dragon Store. In order to find a complete version of the Dragon Store, people exerted a lot of effort and found a complete copy there. In the 1700s, Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty had ordered a part of the scriptures in the Dragon Store copies destroyed as well as other religious books.
The Kaiyuan Temple is Chaozhou’s biggest ancient temple complex. It is the biggest temple complex in the area.
The Kaiyuan Temple is at 32 Kaiyuan Road in Chaozhou
Passengers can take Bus No. 3 to go there.
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I updated this article on July 5, 2012
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