Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Great Buddha

More rain in the south, but central Taiwan is still dry-ish, for now. Today my plan is to explore the central county of Changhua—including Lukang’s old historic street, Mazu Temple, and Eight Hexagrams Mountain. I started by driving to downtown Changhua from Taichung. It is not far, only about 15 minutes by car, but it was started raining as soon as I got on the freeway. Luckily, the rain stopped when I got to my first destination: The Great Buddha at Eight Hexagrams Mountain 大佛八卦山This is not really a mountain, but a little hill forming the back side of Changhua. A huge statue of Shakyamuni sits atop the hill overlooking the city.

This first shot is of the gate leading up to the front of the temple. It marks the beginning of a broad pathway lined with sculptures of various gods and others sages of traditional China. 

When you get to the top of the walkway you are standing a couple of staircases below Shakyamuni. 

The perspective might seem a little skewed here with Sloane in the foreground, but the statue of the Buddha is fairly enormous. 

Two giant stone lions guard the space between the temple grounds and the rest of the complex. This is the one on the right. 

Shakyamuni is sitting atop a lotus flower in the lotus position. 

The Great Buddha of Eight Hexagrams Mountain.

Inside the body of the Buddha there are 5 levels. On the first floor is a small shrine.


As you move up through the Buddha, sculpted vignettes display episodes from Shakyamuni’s life. This one depicts his birth with all sentient beings on earth paying homage and the gods in the heavens offering praise and casting lotus flowers down on him.

The top of the structure was closed for repair, but when it is open you can go up into the Buddha’s head and look out of hole in his forehead. In Buddhism, this is the source of the Buddha’s transcendent power.


Shakyamuni as teacher of innumerable monks and bodhisattvas.   

 Behind the Buddha is a three-tiered temple. This is a new building (well, new as far as temples go—it is only a few decades old).

Two sculpted dragons with spectacular detail line the stairs leading up to the temple’s first floor.

The first level of the temple is a shrine to Confucius. The text on the red banners lining the columns is excerpted from the first passage of the Lunyu, a text that is a compilation of Confucius’ teachings and some of the purported dialogue between him and his disciples. It reads in rough translation: “To study and then timely apply [the thing you have studied], is this not joy? If friends come from distant places, is this not a delight?” The red columns lead toward a statue of the now deified Confucius who sits in glory on a throne. This is a thoughtful Buddhist appropriation of Confucius, for one of his greatest ambitions in life was to receive the patronage of a royal court. This goal is also the greatest blemish on his career since he failed to achieve this goal. This Buddhist temple has granted Confucius an eternal place among the gods so he can forever instruct and be of use.

The second level houses Guangong, a popular god of ancient China, sitting amidst several attendant gods of slightly lower rank. 

The third and top level is Shakyamuni’s temple. He sits in the highest position, surrounded by numerous other Buddhas, gods, and bodhisattvas. A small, dark statue of Guanyin is placed in the center of the shrine. Guanyin is perhaps the most important bodhisattva.

These pieces of wood are used for prayer and divination. The basic ritual includes asking a question to a god and then dropping the wooden pieces to interpret the answer that the god provides you with. If one piece lands flat side down and the other lands rounded side down, then the answer to your question is yes.



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