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Temple of Universal Peace

Temple of Universal Peace

Write: Akiyama [2011-05-23]

Covering an area of 23,000 square meters, the Temple of Universal Peace (Puning si), is the furthest north of the eight remaining outer temples of Chengde. The temple has also in its time been known as the Big Buddha Temple (Dafo si), a reference to the huge statue of Avalokiteshvara, "the lord who hears/looks in every direction," which is covered with thousands of hands and eyes. The temple was built in 1755 to commemorate the victory of the Chinese emperor over the Zonggar people of northwest China. It was constructed as a gesture of goodwill between the Qing Dynasty rulers and the conquered minorities of the region. This temple, like many in Chengde, is designed mainly in Tibetan and Han styles, with various halls including the Gate Hall, the Bell and Drum Towers, a Stele Pavilion, the Hall of Heavenly Kings and the Mahavira Hall.

The 36.75 meter high Mayana Hall is where most people here tend to head. Inside here, the 22.23 meter high, 110 ton statue of Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin in Mandarin), is said to be the largest wooden statue in the world. Made with five different types of wood (pine, cypress, elm, fir and basswood), this enormous statue is one of the few remaining wooden Buddha in China. Avalokitshvara, with 1,000 heads and 1,000 arms, is meant to be able to see future, present and past, hence the many eyes that litter her body (three on her head, one in her belly, and one on each of her 42 palms). Sitting on Avalokitshvara's head stands a 1.53 meter high Buddha of infinity and longevity. The present statue is said to be a copy of the original that was stolen by a warlord. The statues have endured 250 years of neglect and exposure due to the adverse effects of temperature changes, dust accumulation, and heavy visitation. Now, funds from the local government and religious organizations have been raised to restore the great Buddha.

The rest of the halls also contain a variety of interesting, though smaller statues. Many of these are housed in the East and West Chambers of the Main Hall, which originally served for the emperor to rest and listen to the chanting of the Buddhist scripture. The temple still remains pleasantly active, with a hive of red robed monks that can be seen in prayer in the early morning.