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 Essential Architecture-  Peking

Yunju Temple




located in the Shiuto Village, Shangle Town southwest of Fangshan County in Beijing, which is 75 kilometers from Beijing downtown.




the late Sui (581-618) and early Tang (618-907) dynasties




Built between 1111 and 1120, the North Pagoda was originally called the Relic Pagoda or the Arhat Pagoda. Since it was painted red all over, it is also known as the Red Pagoda. It is a special structure, a combination of the multistoreyed, inverted-bowl and vajrasana styles. Four small pagodas, built during the Tang Dynasty, stand at the corners of the base. The lower part of the pagoda is an octagonal pedestal on which stands a two-storeyed brick structure. On top of this is an inverted-bowl steeple with thirteen ornamental discs, looking exactly like an early Lamaist dagoba. This particular pagoda, combining the multistoreyed and inverted-bowl styles, is one of only a few in China, including the White Pagoda at Guanyin Temple in Tianjin's Jixian County.
Yunju Temple, an active monastery with more than a thousand years of history located at the foot of Baidai mountain in Beijing's Fangshan district, was recently listed as a historical structure in UNESCO's World Heritage List.

Built in the late Sui (581-618) and early Tang (618-907) dynasties, the temple is particularly famous for its 14,278 intricate stone carvings of the Tripitaka Buddhist scriptures. Comprised of a courtyard with five floors and six rooms, the Buddhist Palace is in the middle of the temple and surrounded on either side by monasteries for the monks.

Two pagodas facing south and north respectively stand opposite each other, surrounded by old cypresses and pines in the temple courtyard. Founded by the monk, Jingwan, specifically for storing carved scriptures and stone steles, the name Yunju Temple dates to a stone inscription cut in 669. The temple once contained the largest collection of stone-carved Tripitaka scriptures in China. Now housed within nine caves on Shijing mountain, the texts represent the best compilation of the various versions of the Tripitaka; among them are scriptures not yet found in other editions. Shijing mountain is located one kilometer east of Yunju Temple. Only Leiyin Cave is open to the public; the other 4,196 carved stone scriptures remain sealed and are not accessible for public viewing.

During the Sui and Tang dynasties, the temple was quite large. In Tang times, the temple was divided into upper and lower temples. The upper one once stood on Shijing mountain, but only ruins now survive. The lower temple now serves as Yunju Temple. During the Liao (916-1125) and Jin (1115-1234) dynasties, the temple was also known as Shijing Temple.

Carving of the scriptures started in the Sui dynasty and lasted 1,039 years through the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). In all, 14,278 stone steles are carved with 1,122 Buddhist scriptures in 3,572 volumes, offering a rich and varied tapestry of information for historians to study ancient politics, economy, culture, art, as well as the history of Buddhism in China.

Within Yunju Temple are seven pagodas dating from the Tang dynasty (618-907) and five from the Liao dynasty (913-1125); all are well preserved. One of the most notable is the North Pagoda, which is shaped like a bell on top and like a drum in the middle, dates from the Liao period.

Yunju Temple now features a public teahouse that offers various types of tea; vegetarian meals; buffets and performances are also available. The temple, which can be reached by public buses or by car, is open daily from 08:00 -- 17:30; entrance fee is RMB30.-(USD4) a person

Sutra storage caves
Nine Stone-Carved Sutra storage caves are located on the sutra hill to the northeast of the temple, where hide 4,195 pieces of scripture stone carvings carved during the Sui and Tang dynasties (581-907) and at the end of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Among them, the most famous one -- the Leiyin Cave -- houses four stone columns, each of which has several hundred basso-relievo small josses, and the josses on the four columns total over one thousand, so they are also called as thousand Buddha columns. 146 flagstones with scriptures carved by the eminent monk Jingwan of the Sui Dynasty, who built the Yunju Temple, are kept in the cave and all of them are mounted on the walls of the cave. Besides the nine caves, another sutra-storage cave was found in 1956 near the south pagoda, and 10,082 flagstones carved with 3,400 volumes of scriptures were excavated, making it the biggest extant storage place for stone-carved Buddhist Sutras in China. Since the stone-carved Sutras are original and have very few errors, they are very important and valuable for correcting errors in other editions. They are also very precious materials for the research into the history of Chinese Buddhism, arts, and architecture as well as the social politics, economics, culture and folk customs.

There are many very rare cultural relics like stone dagoba, steles of the late Liao Dynasty around the Yunju Temple. The buildings of the famous Tang Pagoda, the Sutra-Insolating Platform, etc., are very exquisite and hold a very important position in the Chinese history of ancient architectural research.

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