Tianzhu Hill(天竺山) nearby Hangzhou West Lake scenic area is famous for three old temples, which local citizens call Tianzhu Three Temples (Upper Tianzhu Temple, Middle Tianzhu Temple and Lower Tianzhu Temple), which together are called “Three Temples of Tianzhu” (天竺三寺) by local citizens. In the Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Emperor named the three temples Faxi Temple (法喜寺), Fajing Temple (法净寺) and Fajing Temple (法镜寺) respectively. That’s how Faxi Temple got its name.
Fajing Temple is the oldest one with more than 1700 years of history, it has experience the ups and down over five different dynasties. It had been destroyed in Qing Dynasty that people was hard to locate its site. Owing to the support from an overseas Chinese, the temple can reappear its brilliance. Visitors can see cultural relics in Ming dynasty.
Faxi Temple is the newest one, but it still has more than 1,000 years of history. Accessible by a small mountain alley, Faxi is a perfect off-the-beaten-track destination for those who want to experience a little Buddhist tranquility without the crowds.
Fajing Temple is similar with the Faxi temple, Fajing temple also called "Middle Tianzhu Temple", was established in 597 AD, Lower Fajing was constructed in 330 AD during the Dongjing Dynasty, and is Hangzhou's only existing nunnery.
Three temples share the same or similar history and get close to one another. Furthermore, their Buddhist standpoints are the same, and their destinies are closely interconnected. So in history, this special region of Hangzhou was honored to be The Buddhist Heaven of Tianzhu(天竺佛国).
Three Temples are quite close to Lingyin Temple, another famous Buddhist temple in Hangzhou. Local people usually prefer to go there for praying or meditation instead of Lingyin Temple, because they are quite more tranquil than Lingyin Temple, which is always crowded by tourists.
The History Of Tianzhu Three Temples
In history, Wulin Hill was the shared name of hills or peaks of lingyin and tianzhu. In accordance with the Record of Geography in West Han Book(汉书地理志, Hanshu Dilizhi): Wulin Hill of Qiantang is the origination of Wulin River Water. In book of Lingshanzhi(灵山志, The Record of Spiritual Mountains), the place was finally named in period of Song Dynasty, and the south of Feilai Peak is Tianzhu Hill, the north Lingyin Hill. The Buddhist culture of Lingyin and Tianzhu Hills passed down along with the history of Hangzhou over the past thousands of years.
The Popularity of Buddhism in Hangzhou and the large construction of temples are closely related to Monk Huili from India. In Record of Tianzhu Hill(天竺山志), Monk Huili arrived at Lingyin in the early period of Xianhe of East Jin Dynasty. As viewing the landscape of Lingyin, he talked to himself: this was the extended part of Lingju Hill from Tianzhu State, but when did it fly over here. Since then, the hill was called Tianzhu, and the peak called Felai. Subsequently, they respectively named the temples Tianzhu Temple together on the south part of the hill, particularly called Upper Tianzhu Temple, Middle Tianzhu Temple and Lower Tianzhu Temple.
In South Song Dynasty, the troops of Jin Kingdom invaded Hangzhou in 1130. the general of Jin Kingdom was called Jin Wuzhu(金兀术) visited Upper Tianzhu Temple, or the Faxi Temple in Qing Dynasty, and got the guide of Kwan-yin. He moved the statue of Kwan-yin and relevant sutras to the north of China. And the monks of the temple followed them and arrived in Yuhe village, five miles away from the southwest Beijing. They built a temple over there.
In 1132, Emperor Gaozong of South Song Dynasty ordered the abbot of temple to build the sutra library and Yingzhen Pavilion, and three years later, he went there to show respect to Buddha.
In 1164, Emperor Xiaozong of South Song Dynasty ordered the governor of Linan named Cao Chengdu to build the Hall of Five Hundred Arhats.
In 1165, the abbot named Master Ruona of The Upper Tianzhu Temple was summoned by Emperor Xiaozong and appointed as You Jie Seng Zhu, and later the Zuo Jie Seng Zhu.
In 1445, Emperor Yingzong of Ming Dynasty presented the Sutra of Beizang(North Treasure Sutra, 北藏经). During the region of more than 270 years in Ming Dynasty, the Upper Tianzhu Temple was reconstructed via donations from the folk society. In Qing Dynasty, the Upper Tianzhu Temple was highly favored. Emperor Kangxi’s six visits to Jiangnan, and five of them connect to this temple, he presented the temple many inscriptions themed with sutras.
In 1751, Emperor Qianlong visited The Upper Tianzhu Temple for two times, and changed the temple to be Faxi Temple and presented the temple his inscriptions as well as the calligraphic couplets. There are currently lots of heritages from these two emperors.
The status of the Upper Tianzhu Tmeple before 1949 was quite high, and the relevant fair was also famous in the surrounding regions.
After 1978, Tianzhu Three Temples were listed into The West Lake Scenic Area. Temples were all rebuilt. Currently, Faxi Temple has Heavenly King Hall, Yuantong Hall, The Grand Hall of the Great Sage, The Dining Room, The Guest Room and Temple Gate, particularly, the statue of five-hundred arhats, which is mixed with various styles of arhats statue in different temples nationwide.
Culture of Tianzhu Hill Three Temples
In temple, there are the old yulan plant and bamboo with more than five hundred years. Three temples of Tianzhu hill hide deeply in valley, and temple building complexes ranked from the lower to the upper are quite grand. The landscape is special and there used to be many famous monks, who mostly were famous for their Buddhist knowledge and poetic creations. The classic like the Old Story of Wulin(武林旧事) and Brief of Hangzhou Landscape(湖山胜景概称) also highly speaks of the scene and story of three temples.
The Buddhist theory is rooted in the beautiful surroundings of Tianzhu hill. The openers of three temples like Hui Li, Bao Zhang and Dao Yi were all the great masters of Buddhism and poetry. Su Dongpo said the Masters of Tianzhu Temple were the writers. Bai Juyi praised that the land belongs the state of Buddhism and the human is unconnected to the ordinary people(地是佛国土, 人非俗交亲).
The surroundings of the temple include Super-mercy Spring, Dream Spring, Lizard Spring, Huanying Well, Zuochan Well and Shixian Well. There is another famous spring called Baoquan Spring, and the water like the cream hanging on the peak, which also called Rushi Peak.
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