The Lingyan Temple is located at the south
piedmont of Taishan Mountain in Shandong Province.
The temple is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in the Tang (618-907)
and Song (960-1127) Dynasties. The Lingyan Temple, together with the Guoqing
Temple in Tiantai Mountain, the Yuquan Temple at Wudang Mountain and the Qixia
Temple at Qixia Mountain, are collectively called Chinese Big Four Jungles, and
are also praised as the Four Miracles in the World.
The Lingyan Temple was founded in the Yongxing reign (357-358) of pre-Qin
period. It began to gain great reputation in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534),
and reached its floruit in the Tang and Song Dynasties. At that time, there were
more than 40 halls, pavilions and storied buildings, more than 500 monastic
rooms, and more than 500 dignitaries. After repair and rebuilding in many
dynasties, especially the large-scaled reconstruction in the Ming (1368-1644)
and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties, it grew up into the size of today. The main
buildings in the temple comprise the Thousand Buddha Hall, the Great Hall, the
Imperial Book Pavilion, the Bell and Drum Tower, the Pacceka Pagoda, the Jicui
Zhengming Niche, the Dagoba Forest Temple, etc.
The Thousand Buddha Hall was first built in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and
was rebuilt many times in the Song and Ming Dynasties. The hall is seven bays
wide and four bays deep. Although after times of repairs in the Ming and Qing
Dynasties, the pedestals of the pillars in the hall are still the work of the
Tang and Song dynasties. Dougongs (wooden square blocks inserted between the top
of a column and a crossbeam) are huge and magnificent. Forty painted clay
statues of arhats are arranged around the interior hall, and they are called the
First Statues in the World. Molded on real persons, the arhats are vivid,
showing happiness, anger, and grief. They are different to each other. According
to the painting style and sculpture, experts consider the statues the relics of
the Song Dynasty.
First built in the twelfth year (753) of the Tianbao reign of the Tang
Dynasty, the Pacceka Pagoda is the tallest building in the temple, with a height
of 54 meters, an octagonal plane layout, and nine storeys. The pedestal of the
tower is built of stones, and the basso-relievos around the pedestal display the
excruciation and the ghastful atmosphere of the hell. Pacceka is the
abbreviation of Paccekajia Buddha. The Pacceka Pagoda is built to fete Pacceka
Buddha, which is very rare in China.
In the west of the temple there is a cemetery for past abbots of the Lingyan
Temple. 167 tombs and dagobas built from the Tianbao reign of the Tang Dynasty
to the Qing Dynasty are preserved here. With various styles and elegant
sculpture, these tombs and dagobas were apotheosis of stupaes in the past
thousand years, and were famous together with the Dagoba Forest of the Shaolin
Temple in Henan Province. Nestled in remote mountains and dwelling with jumping
springs, the Lingyan Temple is reputed as the most secluded place behind Taishan
Mountain. There are twelve wonderful sights around the temple.