Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sun Moon Lake (Xuan Zang Temple)

Xuan Zang the monk is famous for going to India in the Tang Dynasty to bring back Buddhist scriptures to China. His story became legendary in the the novel Journey to the West. I read an abridged version in an Intro to Asian Studies course in undergrad and now I'm reading the full version, in English of course. I can't exactly read ancient Chinese yet! So although the novel could not be a true account with all of the monsters, Buddhas and Daoist gods that appear, it still has some roots in what actually happened.

I was extremely excited to find out that there was a temple to Xuan Zang because I love the story Journey to the West, especially the monkey king, Sun Wu Kong. I've been reading the novel (it's broken down into four books, each over 1,000 pages long) and I'm on the second to last chapter. In the book, Xuan Zang is characterized as extremely naive and scared of anything that moves. He also seems to lose heart easily. He's not a well liked character in my opinion, but he does have a good heart and has the strongest morals of any of his other companions on the journey.






The temple was less ornate than Wen Wu Temple, but it was more peaceful and had a nicer view, which I will show you later.






The statue in the middle is Xuan Zang, and if you look on his back there is an ancient version of a backpack with all of the scrolls he brought back.




What's different about this temple is that there is no incense burning or food offerings. Instead you light a candle in a lotus shaped candle holder. I like it because it's more environmentally friendly. I would have lit one too, except I used my money to buy a wooden carved keychain.


On the second floor was a small exhibition about Xuan Zang and Buddhism. This is a diagram of the cycles of life you can be born into (according to the religion): there's a few types of Buddhas and saints, gods, people, animals, and two different categories of demons.


When enlightened Buddhists die, their remains will be burned and supposedly some kind of round crystal or stone remains. The amount of stones indicate how enlightened the person was. In this chalice type thing you can look through the yellow glass and see some such stones.


What's famous about this temple is that it holds part of Xuan Zang's remains. It's blocked off so you cannot get close enough to see. However, a camera kindly shows you the remains of part of his jaw bone in a tv screen.


A little morbid, right? But still cool if that was really part of his body!
Here's the view I promised earlier. Sun Moon Lake is so gorgeous. It's no wonder it's one of the top tourists spots for Mainland Chinese people.

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