Situated in beautiful Hangzhou, is the extraordinary Feilai Peak. (also known as “Fei Lai Feng”, or “the Peak Flown from Afar”). Located in front of the famous Lingyin Temple, the pure limestone mountain is distinctive from the surrounding sandstone mountains. Numerous caves within the mountain house hundreds of rock reliefs and statues dating from between the 10th and 14th centuries. These world-renowned religious rock carvings have attracted visitors for hundreds of years. With a rich history and cultural significance, the spectacular Feilai Peak is an attraction that must be experienced.
- Feilai Peak is part of the monastery complex Lingyin Temple, wjich is one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in all of China.
- The mountain is approximately 209 m (700 ft.) tall, with numerous caves and grottoes.
- There are nearly 500 Buddhist statues and reliefs ranging from the Five Dynasties period (907 to 960 CE), to the Yuan dynasty (1271 to 1368 CE).
- The largest of all the statues on Feilai Peak is that of Maitreya Buddha, built during the Southern Song dynasty (1127 to 1279).
History of Feilai Peak
Feilai Peak, or the “Peak Flown from Afar” is majestic and spectacular in every way. Visitors have gravitated to this site for nearly two thousand years. An Indian Buddhist monk and pilgrim named Huili founded the nearby Lingyin Temple 328 CE., after arriving in Hangzhou.
According to legend, after coming to the valley where Feilai Peak is located, he was struck by how dissimilar the mountain was to the surrounding peaks. Huili concluded that Feilai Peak had flown from India (because it resembled the topography from his homeland) to Hangzhou, demonstrating the omnipotence of Buddhism. Thus, the mountain is commonly known as ““Peak Flown from Afar”.
During the Five Dynasties (907 AD to 960 CE), Lingyin Temple increased in importance under the Wuyue Kingdom. What for his devotion to Buddhism, the ruler of the Wuyue State implemented major constructions on the monastery complex. It was inhabited by over 3000 monks, and consisted of nine multi-story structures, 1300 dormitory rooms, 72 halls, and 18 pavilions.
It was during this period of prosperity, that the first statues were carved into the caves of Feilai Peak. The three oldest statues found on Feilai Peak were constructed around 951 CE. Located on the east wall of what is known as Qinglin Cave, the aforesaid statues include Avalokiteshvara, Shalyamuni, and Bhasisajya (or “Medicine Buddha”).
Since the early 1990s, researchers and historians have flocked to Feilai Peak in order to study the stone carvings. The site is unparalleled as representative of classical Chinese stone carving.
Culture of Feilai Peak
Feilai Peak is comprised of numerous caves, including Roaring Ape (Huyuan) Cave, Jade Breast (Yuru) Cave, Shooting Sun (Shexu) Cave, and Longhong Cave. All the main caves are situated to the southeast of the peak. Located within Longhong Cave, is the famous statue of Kwan Yin. At its entrance, is a six-storey structure known as Lingjiu Tower. Constructed during the Ming dynasty, it is the only remaining tower from this period left in Hangzhou.
In addition to the exquisite Buddhist statues found on Feilai Peak, there are also a considerable number of other carvings. Large stone carvings are scattered throughout the site, resembling animals such as a crouching tiger, a flying dragon, running elephant, and frightened ape. Halfway up the mountain, stands the exquisite Cuiwei Pavilion. It was erected in memory of the famous general, Yue Fei (1103 to 1142), deemed a national hero after his contributions in the wars between the Southern Song and Jin dynasties.
Found within Shexu Cave is an incredible natural feature. Known as the “one thread from heaven”, a crack in the ceiling of this cave enables a beam of sunlight to penetrate down to the cave floor. Anyone standing in a specific position can witness this spectacular natural, yet magical phenomenon.
The largest of all the Buddhist statues found on Feilai Peak is the Maitreya Buddha (Laughing Buddha). Located on the northern slope of the mountain, this is considered the most well preserved statue from the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). The statue of the Vairocana Buddha constructed during the early Song dynasty, is considered one of the most exceptional its kind ever sculpted during this period.
- Expect to allot about 2 hours to fully experience Feilai Peak, including Lingyin Temple.
- Feilai Peak is easily accessible via Hangzhou public transportation.
- The site is open from 7 AM to 6 PM (all year round).
- The best time to visit Feilai Peak is during the spring and autumn. However, the winters are mild and provide stunning scenery.
- Because of their close proximity, after visiting Feilai Peak, it is highly recommended to also visit West Lake, Qiantang River, and Leifeng Tower.