It is a grey day in Hangzhou, and I decide to take a bus to the hillside on the west of the West Lake. The bus is not full, but when I arrive at the entrance of the Lingyin temple complex, I am surprised by the large amount of people, souvenir shops, and restaurants: it certainly looks like a very popular place to visit. I buy my ticket anyway, and where almost all others continue straight to the temple, I take a left and walk into the woods. I find open spaces with Buddha statues. Scarce light is filtered through the trees, casting a green light on the works of art. Then, I walk along the base of the mountain, where Buddha statues are carved inside caves. There is not much daylight in the caves; some are pitch dark, and I curse myself for not having taken a good torch.
When I see stairs leading up the mountain, there is no hesitation: I want to climb the mountain! This Feilai Feng is one mysterious mountain. It is limestone, and of a different character compared to other mountains in the area: legend has it that it flew here from India to demonstrate the power of Buddhist law. Its name translates to "The Peak that Flew from Afar", and its mythical fame made many monks carve Buddha sculptures and statues in the rock face and the grottoes in the mountain. There are several paths leading up the mountain, the last part is just a stone stair. For some reason, I expect something special on top, but all I find is a bundle of roots and rocks - and very little view, as the trees do not allow seeing far.
Once I am back down, I further explore the many caves and grottoes, with larger Buddhas in the rockface close to the main path to the Lingyin temple complex. In one cave, there is a narrow opening in the roof, allowing daylight in, while others are just dark. The light of my phone is just enough to allow me a glimpse of the sculpted figures on the rock face. I am not far from the Lingyin temple, which was founded here in the early 4th century. The afternoon is coming to an end: most people have left, and I have the temple ground almost to myself. I find old stone pagodas, and the Hall of the Heavenly Kings with the four heavenly kings, and a Laughing Buddha in the centre. Next up is the Grand Hall of the Great Sage, where the largest wooden Buddhist statue in China of a Sakyamuni Buddha. The statue is coated with gold, towering above whoever enters, making you feel humble. At least as interesting is its backside: it is a large screen featuring carvings of some 150 Buddhist personalities that are bending forward. As I visit, the temple is being closed, and I see monks hurrying through the complex while I enjoy the courtyards where incense burners still emit a pleasant smell.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Lingyin temple complex (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Lingyin temple complex.
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