Situated in the magnificent capital of Sichuan province, Chengdu, is Wenshu Monastery (also known as Wenshu Temple). It is an active and authentic monastery, were visitors can see locals worshiping. Wenshu is the largest and best-preserved temple in Chengdu, and home to the Buddhist Association of Sichuan Province and Chengdu City. It is considered one of the four most important monasteries downstream of the Yangtze River. Wenshu Monastery houses numerous fascinating historical and cultural relics, and is definitely a must-see attraction.
- Wenshu Monastery is located at 66 Wenshuyan Street, Qingyang District of Chengdu.
- It covers an area of 11,600 square meters and contains over 190 rooms.
- Its literal translation is “Temple of Manjushri”.
- Cultural relics are the main highlight of the monastery, with its hundreds of Buddha statues, many which have been inscribed as important Sichuan cultural units.
- The entire temple faces south, with its main halls and library along the central axis of the complex.
History Of Wenshu Monastery
Wenshu Monastery was constructed during Sui Dynasty (581-618 AD), and originally was called “Xinxiang Temple”. According to legend, the temple was built by a consort of Emperor Wendi (541 to 604AD). During the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period ((907-960AD), the temple was renamed “Miaoyuan Tayuan”. In the Song dynasty (960-1279), the name was changed once again, this time to “Xinxiang Temple”. During the end of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), unfortunately the monastery was destroyed by a catastrophic fire. Of all the numerous cultural relics that it housed, only 10 iron statues of Buddhist deities and two 1000-year-old Chinese fir trees survived the flames.
In 1681 during the reign of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), an accomplished Buddhist monk named Cidu, came to the temple. He built a thatched hut on the grounds, and lived an austere life there. According to legend, after his death when his body was being cremated, the statue of Wensu (Bodhisattva Manjusri in Sanskrit) appeared amid the flames. Therefore, people regarded Cidu as the reincarnation of Bodhisattva Manjusri, and thus, the temple was renamed Wenshu Monastery.
In 1697, extensive renovations began on the complex, which were completed in 1706. In the Jiaqing and Daoguang periods (1796-1850), the monastery complex was further enlarged and extended. In 1983, the State Council of China deemed Wenshu Monastery as a “National Key Buddhist Temple in Han Chinese Area”. This authorization recognizes Buddhist temples of national importance in areas traditionally associated with the Han Chinese. In addition to Wenshu Monastery, the list is comprised of 141 other Buddhist temples.
Culture Of Wenshu Monastery
Wenshu Monastery is comprised of several halls, pavilions, and a library. The five halls that line the 200m long central axis of the complex are Hall of Four Heavenly Kings, Three Deities Hall, Mahavira Hall, Buddha Dharma Hall, and the Sutra Mansion. There are hundreds of precious cultural relics and treasures housed in the complex. Some of the hundreds of Buddha statues are made of bronze, iron, wood, stone, and even jade. Amongst one of the most important and famous Buddha statues, is the jade Buddha Statue. This delicate treasure was brought back from Burma in 1922, by a Buddhist monk named, Xing Lin, walked the entire distance.
Hall of Four Heavenly Kings: Within the Hall of Four Heavenly Kings is a large statue of Maitreya. Along both sides of the hall, are statues of the Four Heavenly Kings.
Three Deities Hall: Contained within this hall, are statues of the Three Sages of the West named Amida, Guanyin, and Mahāsthāmaprāpta, respectively.
Mahavira Hall: This hall measures a towering 10.56 meters (34.6 ft) high. Located within the middle of it, is a sitting statue of Shakyamuni Buddha, and standing on either of its sides, are two other important Buddha statues. All three were cast in 1829, during the Daoguang era of the Qing dynasty.
Buddha Dharma Hall: This hall is situated behind the Mahavira Hall. Enshrined within is a statue of Bhaiṣajyaguru. Statues of a dozen Sajjñeya-mahā-yaksa line either side of this structure.
In addition to hundreds of Buddha statues, Wenshu Monastery is also renowned for its extensive painting and calligraphy treasures. Most were created in the Ming and Qing dynasties and include restored calligraphy exhibits, paintings, and other artworks. Works from some of the most famous Chinese artists history are displayed in the complex, including Zhang Daqian, Zheng Banqiao, and Feng Zikai.
- Wenshu Monastery is open from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM.
- It is easily accessible by public transit.
- Visitors must remember that the monastery is a functioning religious site, therefore, conduct must be respectful.
- If you are interested in Buddhist activities, visit the monastery between March and October, when many are held at the temple.