Gate of Harmony

Gate of HarmonyGate of Harmony is actually a hall rather than a gate. Following the Buddhist tradition, the first hall in a lamasery is usually called the Maitreya’s shrine or the Hall of Heavenly Kings. In this hall Maitreya always greets people with a smiling face.

He is known in China as the Big Belly Buddha. Legend has it that he was born 1,000 years ago and became a monk in Yuelin Temple in Fenghua County, Zhejiang Province. He often went spreading Buddhism with a bag in his hand begging for food, so people usually called him the Bag Buddha. He is also known as the Laughing Buddha because he always smiles. It is said that before his death he was sitting on a piece of stone slab, telling people that he was the reincarnation of the Future Buddha Maitreya. According to what he said people called him Buddha Maitreya after his death.
On each side of Buddha Maitreya, there is a sandalwood pagoda. On the pagoda stand many small Buddhist images which were symbols of longevity. Hence, the Longevity Pagoda.

On both sides of Maitreya’s shrine are seated four fearsome looking Heavenly Kings or Celestial Guardians, two on each side.

The Buddhist theory goes that the earth is divided into four worlds: northern, southern, eastern and western. Each of the four worlds is guarded by one of the Four Heavenly Kings.

The one with a sword is the Southern World Heavenly King named Zengzhang. When ghosts and monsters dare to step in, he chants an incantation and throws his magic sword up into the sky. In a flash the sword flies down like lightning, hitting, sometimes even killing the intruder.
Eastern World Heavenly King, who plays a pipa, a 4-stringed Chinese lute. On the battlefield, he plucks the musical instrument and gives his enemy a headache. So he wins the battle.

Opposite to him is Duowen, the Northern World Heavenly King, who carries a huge umbrella. Whenever he puts up his umbrella, the sky over the battlefield turns dark and a cyclonic storm howls, sending sand and rocks whirling about. The eyesight of his rivals is sure to be impaired. Hardly has he shut up the umbrella when the rivals are drawn into it and arrested.

The one with a water snake is the Western World Heavenly King Guangmu. Once released, the snake mounts the clouds and rides the mists. All of a sudden, this animal spurts out water and disperses his enemy.

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