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Created 27-Apr-08
Modified 27-Apr-08
9 photos
A small selection of photographs of the Zen Buddhist Temple Chengtiansi 承天寺 in Quanzhou, Fujian Province. The temple was founded in 957-958 and was once one of the three major Zen/Chan 禅 Buddhist centers in the Minnan area.

There is an interesting story behind the construction of the temple. As it was planned as a very large compound, large amounts of timber were required. The monk in charge of securing the construction materials traveled to northern Fujian to negotiate with the "Lord of the Mountain" (山主) about felling the necessary amount of trees. The Lord of The Mountain, who wasn't exactly willing to contribute to the project, told the monk that he could have the trees if he were able to actually fell them. A contract was agreed upon, and that same night, after the monk had performed a ritual (当夜作法), a huge storm arose and leveled part of the forest, thus aiding the monk's cause. The next morning, the Lord of the Mountain, not amused, said to the monk: "You have indeed felled the trees, but let's see how you manage to transport them back." At that, the monk wielded his Zen staff, and, touching the trees with it, they were miraculously transmitted to Quanzhou (用禅杖向折梢的巨杉一撞), where they were pulled one by one from the Great Dragon King Well in the temple to be erected.

This is an interesting story for those looking at legitimization processes to exhaust natural resources for the construction of specifically religious structures in traditional China. The legitimization was not rationalized to such extent when it came to private or government buildings.

Thomas H. Hahn
Ithaca, NY
Lotus and roofsRoof detail (the architecture is very intricate, using a great variety of materials)Buddhist monk on his way to the mess hallThe southern entranceA private pavilionChatting and prayingShadows IShadows IIMastering the square and the round