Temple, also called Taohu Nunnery, was built in 1634, the
seventh year in the reign of Chongzhen of the Ming Dynasty.
It is located at the foot of Mt. Tuiying of the Jinma Mountain
range in the eastern outskirts of Kunming
City, about 4 kUometres away from the city centre. According
to historical records, before the temple was erected, there
had been a thatched shack where Shi Shiqiao, a scholar of
the Ming Dynasty, buried himself in books. During the reign
of Chongzhen, Shi Tai, grandson of Shi Shiqiao, donated the
estate for the shack whereon tanhua Temple was built. In the
backyard there was an epiphyllum tree, which is called "tanhua"
in Chinese and honoured as "Buddha's Flower", hence the name
Tanhua Temple was built by the end of the
Ming Dynasty. It went through many renovations during the
reigns of Kangxi (1662-1722) and Qianlong (1736-1795) in the
Qing Dynasty. It has been well-known for its flowers and plants
ever since Yingding, the abbot, took charge of this temple.
It has been a scenic spot for more than three hundred years,
and an epitome of Kunming, "the Flower City of the Southern
Frontier." Yingding (1864- 1922), a native of Kunming came
to the temple in his childhood, and studied Buddish sutras
under Xuliang, the abbot. Xuliang loved the boy very much
because he was clever and could memorize every word he had
learned. He was later sent to study Confucian doctrines under
Wang Zhongyu, a Confucian scholar. He attained great achievement
in poetry. After the death of Xuliang, Yingding inherited
the abbotship. His diligence changed the bleak temple into
a garden "full of fragrance from flowers." His gardening skills
were well known in the city.
epiphyllum tree was planted in the side court of the depository
of Buddhist Scriptures. There is a stone tablet on which four
characters are carved: "The Epiphyllum Brings Luck." After
the erection of the temple, the original epiphyllum withered
and died. The epiphyllum nowstanding taller than the eaves
of the temple sprang from the root of the original one at
the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, and is about three hundred
years old. The epiphyllum's leaves are broad and its twigs
supple. It stands slim and graceful. When it bursts into flowers
in mid-summer, the strong fragrance greets your nose, gladdens
your heart and refreshes your mind. This epiphyllum is, in
fact, a unique Yunnan magnolia, belonging to the lily magnolia
family. It is an evergreen ornamental plant suitable for gardening.
The big loquat tree in the backyard is said to have been planted
in the early Ming Dynasty by Lan Mao (1397-1476), a famous
doctor and the author of the book Meteria Medica of Yunnan.
In recent years, the old temple
has resumed its original grandeur and achieved
great development. It has become one of the most
famous scenic spots in Kunming. When you enter
the gate, coming into view are flowers alongside
the road and the wall which embraces a rockery
studded with flowers. You seem to have come to
a world of flowers.
In this south of the temple,
there is the Southern Garden with flowers and
rockeries. The peaks of the rockeries look like
a forest, each having its own style. The exuberant
azalea, cypress, magnolia and bamboo vie with
the rockeries for beauty and gracefulness. The
winding paths among the flowers and the zigzagging
corridor surround the Lotus Pond, where you can
watch fish. You are delighted to see fishjumping
out of the water, and feel fascinated with the
blooming of flowers.
the east of the temple there is a the East Garden, covering
about fifty mu shaded by tall cedars and cypresses. Within
the garden there are seven small gardens, namely, Yi Jian
Xuan, Peony Garden, Magnolia Garden, Azalea Garden, Camellia
Garden, Chinese Flowering Crabapple and Cheery Garden, and
Children's Playground. They are ingeniously connected by foot-paths
and corridors. The beauty of these gardens lies not only in
the matching of the flowers with plants, but also in the interior
layout of each garden. You will be greeted by picturesque
scenes wherever you rove in these gardens, which combine the
classical architectural style with that of the minority nationalities
in Yunnan. Tanhua Temple, though
occupying a small area of less than a hundred mu, is so enchanting
that visitors will linger on without any thought of leaving.
When he was in Yunnan, Zhu De
(1886-1976), Commander-in-Chief of the People's
Liberation Army, admired very much Monk Yingding's
skills of cultivating magnolias and other flowers.
He often went to see the flowers and enjoy a cup
of tea together with Yingding, whose style of
coriversation and calligraphy he more than admired.
Soon they became close friends. In the early spring
of 1922 when he visited the temple, Zhu De wrote
a poem for Yingding, who carved it on a stone
tablet to commemorate the event. On March 9th
of the same year, Moon Yingding passed away but
the stone tablet remains.