The Xiangji Si (Xiangji Temple) was a famous temple of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). It was known as a place that trained Buddhist monks in the Buddhist doctrines of Pure Land Buddhism (净土佛教). It is said that Pure Land Buddhist teachings originated in the Gandhara region of Central Asia and South Asia and was brought to China by traveling monks during the Han Dynasty era about the year 147 AD. Pure Land Buddhism is a popular form of Buddhism in East Asia that concentrates on a savior named Amitabha Buddha who is said to bring people to the Pure Land that he made if they believe. This belief system became prominent in China after the year 402 through the teachings of a monk named Huiyuan. During the Tang Dynasty era when Buddhism had a resurgence, the Xiangji Temple was built, and it was an influential temple that was visited by Emperor Zhongzong and Empress Wu. What is notable about the temple now are a 33 meter or 108 feet tall pagoda that was built in 680, a smaller pagoda and the main temple.
Temple Layout and Construction
The temple was built during the Tang Dynasty era in honor of a monk named Shandao. The temple's main pagoda was built in the year 680. It originally had 13 stories, but the top two and half stories have eroded away so that it now has 10 and a half stories. The top is jagged because of the damage, but the pagoda still looks impressive. There is also a smaller pagoda that is five stories tall that was built in honor of a monk named Jingye. The temple has red pillars and a sloping tiled roof. On one side, there is a large natural boulder or carved boulder.
It is said that an advanced Buddhist monk named Dharmakara vowed to save all beings and made a heavenly realm for people to live in if they need his help. These teachings were found in Buddhist scriptures that were brought to China about 147 AD. But the teachings became popular after the year 402 though the work of a monk named Huiyuan. During the Tang Dynasty era, Xi'an was the capital of the Tang Empire, and various sects of Buddhism had a resurgence partly though the work of Central Asian travelling monks. The Central Asian monks taught a kind of Mayahana Buddhism that had developed during the centuries before north of India. They travelled along the Silk Road eastward, and they settled and taught in Xi'an.
Pure Land Buddhism developed indigenously. After Huiyuan, there was another monk named Shandao who is called the second Patriarch of the Pure Land School. He is said to have called on the name of Amitabha tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of times a day, and Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty called him Great Master of Light because light came out of his mouth when he said the name. He was renowned in the Tang Dynasty.
During the reign of Emperor Zhongzong in 706 AD, the Xiangji Temple was built by a monk named Huai Yun to honor his teacher Shandao. The temple then became a center for teaching of Pure Land Buddhism.
Travel: The temple is in the Changan District of Xi'an. It is just outside the central city area and is about 20 kilometers south of the Xi'an Train Station. Here is the address in Chinese: 西安市长安区郭杜镇. You can take Bus No. 322 or Bus No. 320 to the Xiangji Cun stop. China Highlights can help you design a trip to visit this temple and other sights in Xi'an.
Fee: 5 or 10 RMB or about 1.00 USD depending on the season.
Hours: about 8 am to 6 pm.
I updated this article on November 11, 2013
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