Temple of Azure Clouds

Temple of Azure Clouds lies at the foot of the Western Hills. Its landmark the Diamond Throne Pagoda can be seen towering amidst green trees from a far distance.

Temple of Azure Clouds was first built in 1366 before the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty. Under the Ming two powerful eunuchs, Yu Jing and Wei Zhongxian, had it expanded at various periods, trying to make it their burial ground, but they didn’t succeed. In 1748 during the Qing Dynasty, large-scale construction work was done. The Hall of Arhats designed after the Jingci Monastery in Hangzhou and the Diamond Throne Pagoda at the rear of the temple were built in that period. Before liberation, the buildings in the temple were quite run-down. Since1954, they have been renovated and painted anew, and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall was rebuilt to pay tribute to this great pioneer of the Chinese revolution.

Entering the gate you can see the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower, one on each side.

Temple Gate
Inside the gate there used to be two statues of gate guardians known to the Chinese as the two Generals, “Heng and Ha.” Hall of Heavenly Kings The Hall now contains a bronze statue of Maitreya Buddha, apiece of Ming Dynasty work. In the hall, there used to be four statues of the Heavenly Kings. They were destroyed in the 1920s by the war-lords. But in the gateway leading to the Hall of Arhats, the visitor can still see another four statues of the Heavenly Kings.
The courtyard has an ancient bodhi tree, pines and gingkoes and two stone pillars with Buddhist inscriptions. Inside the hall are brightly painted clay figures, which tell the story of Xuanzang, a famous Tang Dynasty monk, on a pilgrimage to the West in search of Buddhist sutras.

Heavenly Kings
The four Heavely Kings are the protectors of the temple, and the four quarters of the universe and the four seasons of the year are also supposedly under their control.

The blue one with a lute is the God of Summer who watches the East.
The black one with a snake and a pipa is the God of Autumn who watches the North.
The red one with an umbrella is the God of Spring who watches the South.
The white one with a sword is the God of Winter who watches the West.

Hall of Arhats
In the hall there are altogether 508 statues representing the disciples of the Buddha, each in a different pose and with a different facial expression. Eight of them are the personal disciples of Sakyamuni, and the other 500 are the saints. Each one is marked with a number. No. 444 Arhat is said to be the reincarnation of Qing Emperor Qian-long. Legend has it that Emperor Qianlong wanted to be an arhat. The pose of No. 444 Arhat is similar to that of the arhat he disguised. Years later, this “false arhat” joined the rank of arhats. All of them were redecorated recently. Not far from the north gate of the hall; there is a small figure named Jigong who was fixed on the beam. It is said that he was a late comer, and there was no place for him. That’s why he could only find a place on the beam.

North of the Hall of Arhats lies the Spring Garden, where a spring flows from the crevices. The Three Immortals Cave is another feature of interest in the garden.

Near Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall there are three arches each built of a different material: one of wood, one of stone and the third of brick. A pair of circular pavilions are also found here.

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
Before 1949, the hall was dilapidated. Except for a portrait of Dr. Sun Yat-sen and a few old wreaths, it was practically empty. In 1954the Chinese Government refurbished the temple and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall was reconstructed. There is a bust of Sun Yat-sen in the hall. On the right is a glass coffin with a steel lid, a gift from the Soviet Government. It arrived in China in 1925, two weeks after Sun Yat-sen’s body had been encoffined. There are two exhibition rooms, one on each side of the Memorial Hall. In the north room are pictures of Dr. Sun’s early revolutionary activities. In the south room are pictures showing how he led the Chinese people in the democratic revolution.

Behind the hall on the hillside stands the Diamond Throne Pagoda. After Sun Yat-sen’s death in March 1925 his coffin was entombed in its base. In May it was moved to Nanjing. His hat and clothes were then buried in the base instead, and the Diamond Throne Pagoda has also been known as the Hat-and-Clothes Tomb of Dr. Sun Yatsen.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen

Dr. Sun Yat-sen, a great pioneer of the Chinese bourgeois revolution, was born in 1866. He graduated from a medical college in Hongkong in 1892 and, under the cover of practising medicine, he began to engage in political activities for national salvation. In 1894 he set up Revive-China Society, China’s first bourgeois revolutionary organization. He organized Revolutionary League in 1905 and for the first time publicly advocated Nationalism, Democracy and the People’s Livelihood. The 1911 Revolution led by him overthrew China’s feudal system that lasted for over 2,000 years. On January lst, 1912, Sun Yat-sen took the oath of office for presidency and proclaimed the founding of the Republic of China. Soon afterwards Dr. Sun Yat-sen resigned and the political power was usurped by the notorious warlord Yuan Shikai. In 1924 Dr. Sun Yat-sen implemented the three policies of alliance with Soviet Russia, alliance with the Communist Party, and support for the workers and peasants’ movements. He passed away in Beijing on March 12, 1925.

The main streets of some of China’s major cities are named after him and memorial meetings are held each year to commemorate his contributions to the Chinese Democratic Revolution.

Diamond Throne Pagoda

Standing at the rear of the temple, it was designed after the Diamond Throne Temple in Central India but built and decorated in the Chinese style. On the 34-metre-high platform built entirely of white marble stand two small-sized dagobas and five 13-layer close-eaved stupas. The stupas used to be the graves of monks in China and the Buddha’s tooth relic is said to be kept inside. The foundation is triple tiered: the first two storeys have stairs and on the third there are a number of niches containing fine Buddhist images in relief. An internal stairway leads from the bottom up to the platform of the foundation, from where visitors can have a panoramic view of the surrounding area.

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