Bamboo Monastery (Qiongzhusi
Monastery (Qjongzhusi Temple) is situated on Yu'anshan Hill
(the Jade Desk Hill) on the northwestern outskirts of Kunming,
some 12 kilometers from the downtown area. The quiet and tastefully
laid out temple is surrounded by verdant woods and green bamboos
affording crisp and cool air. It is therefore called "the
Jade Desk Hill in Fine Clouds and Mists".
The name "Bamboo Monastery" indicates that
it is closely related to bamboos. As the legend goes, in the
period of Nazhao Kingdom under the reign of Tang Dynasty,
the two sons Gao Guang and Gao Zhi of the Marquis of Shanchan
(today's Kunming) once went hunting on the Western Hills and
suddenly came rushing into their view a rhinoceros. They chased
the beast to the northern slope of Yu'anshan Hill, but lost
sight of the animal then and there. Standing instead in front
of them was a silver-haired and ruddy-complexioned monk leaning
on a bamboo stick in the midst of clouds hovering around the
hills. The two brothers hurried forward to greet the monk,
only to find him vanishing in a flash. His stick was found
firmly stuck in the ground. The bamboo stick was seen sprouting
and soon growing into a dense bamboo grove. Right on the very
spot the two brothers then built a temple named Qiongzhusi
to express their gratitude to the mysterious monk for making
his appearance before them.
Just inside the gate of the monastery are
two peacock cedars (cryptomeria) about 600 years old. They
are believed to have been planted during the reign of Emperor
Hongwu of the Ming Dynasty. The hardy old trunks uphold two
canopies of luxuriant branches and leaves high above the ground.
In front of Luohantang (the Hall of Arhats) stand two ancient
wild magnolia trees (magnolia delavaji) some hundred years
old with thick branches and leaves. You will be greeted by
pervading fragrance when the trees are in bloom with flowers
resembling lovely white lotus.
Before the Song Dynasty, a religious sect
of Buddhism, similar to Lamaism in Tibet, was commonly professed.
At the turn of the Song and Yuan Dynasties, a famous monk
from Kunming studied Buddhism in the interior of the country.
During his twenty-five years'stay in the Central Plains of
China, he became quite learned and was granted a Buddhist
name "Hongjing" by Kublai Khan. Then he returned to Yunnan
and preached Buddhism at the Bamboo Monastery, preaching the
doctrines of the Chan (Dhyana) sect (a branch of Buddhism
in China). It grew more and more famous in Yunnan with the
passage of time, as the first Buddhist temple in which Buddhism
from the interior of China was introduced. The construction
date is still wrapped in obscurity. Nevertheless, it can be
inferred that the Buddhist monastery was built before the
Yuan Dynastyjudging from the time when the famous monk began
preaching at the temple. The monastery was renovated again
and again in the Ming and the Qing Dynasties.
500 arhat statues in the halls are the pride of the temple.
Of the 500, 432 arhat statues are arranged on three tiers
in the Fanyin Pavilion and the Tiantailai Pavilion on both
sides of Tianwangdian (the Hall of the Heavenly Kings) and
the rest of 68 are arranged in the same way on both sides
of Daxiong Baodian (the Majestic Hall for Great Siddhartha).
These statues were the artistic creations of a famous sculptor
Li Guangxiu from Sichuan and his five apprentices through
painstaking efforts from the 6th year to the 16th year in
the reign of Emperor Guangxi of the Qing Dynasty. They plunged
themselves deep into the thick of life to study the images
and mental attitude of people. These exquisite clay sculptures,
based on the traditional technique of Buddha sculpture and
showing ingenuity and superb craftsmanship, were completed
by the sculptors with great dexterity and precision through
infinite pains. These highly individualized statues have distinctive
facial expressions of anger and ease, sorrow and joy. Their
postures and gestures are also extremely varied. Some are
sedate, while others are full of motion; some are looking
at each other and some chatting. Among the sc~ptures are Buddhas
with kindly faces, Lord Buddha's warrior attendants with glaring
eyes, industrious Xingzhe (a monk with his hair unshaven),
the humorous Amitabha, the meditating bhiksus, the joyful
sages and hundreds of others. These vivid, true to life clay
sculptures catch the eyes of the visitors as soon as they
come to the gate of the pavilions. Of all the statues in the
three tiers, those in the middle tier are the best. It is
said that they were sculptured by Li Guangxiu himself and
the rest were done by his apprentices under his guidance.
These sculptors broke away from the stereotyped
mode of the traditional Buddhist sculpture and modelled their
statues on real people of all social strata. The combination
of realism and romanticism applied in their artistic creation
resulted in the immortal images of the 500 true-to-life arhat
statues with vivid facial expressions and impressive dispositions.
They are the treasures of the day Buddhist sculptures of China
and are reputed as "a jewel in the treasure of the sculptural
art in the Orient."
In the temple there are also many valuable
inscriptions and couplets on tablets and pillars. In the main
hall of the temple stands a tablet bearing the "Emperor's
Edict" written in the Mongdian language and translated in
vernacular Chinese. Therefore the relic is also named the
Vernacular Stele (Baihuabei). This tablet provides some evidence
of the close ties between Kunming, then called the "Duck Pond
Town" or Yachi, the same way of addressing it as Marco Polo
did in his Travels, and interior China in their political,
economic and cultural rdations. It also reveals a lot of historical
information about Yunnan's history, geography and languages
in the 13th and 14th centuries and has a high value for academic
In the courtyard, there grow many kinds
of exotic flowers and rare plants, diffusing fragrance all
the year round. It is a nice place for people to relax.
At the eastern side of the temple,
a place for "enjoyment of the wilderness" composed for mountain
slopes with a varied topography forms a part of the scenic
resort and historical site.
Most of our Yunnan
tour packages including the visits
of Bamboo Monastery in Kunming City, we can also customize
a new private trip for you with
the monastery included.