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Baiyunguan (White Cloud Taoist Temple)

Updated:2008-06-06 09:59 | Source:

  Situated in the West City District, the White

  Cloud Taoist Temple formally reopened in 1984 for

  the first time since 1949. It is the largest and the

  only one of its kind open to the public.

  Taoism, a religion native to China, has a history of

  1,800 years. It originated from shamanism and the

  various practices intended to ensure immortality in

  the Qin (221-207 BC) and Western Han (206 BC-AD 24)

  dynasties. Zhang Daoling is credited with founding

  the religion of Taoism on Heming Mountain (in Dayi

  County, Sichuan Province) during the reign of

  Emperor Shundi (126-144).

  Laozi, the ancient Chinese philosopher, is the chief

  deity of Taoism and is honoured as Taishanglaojun

  (Lord the Most High). Taoists believe that Tao (the

  Way), Laozi's school of thought, is all-embracing

  and external, conceiving and governing everything,

  including the sky and the earth. They also believe

  they can attain longevity and become one with the

  Tao through special practices of meditation.

  The White Cloud Taoist Temple is the chief temple of

  the Quanzhen Taoist sect and the center of the

  Longmen sub-sect. According to historical records,

  Emperor Xuanzong (7l2-756) of the Tang Dynasty built

  a temple called Tianchangguan to enshrine a stone

  statue of Laozi. The Tianchangguan was burned down

  in 1202, but was rebuilt from 1203 to 1216 and

  renamed Taiji Palace. It was later damaged during


  Emperor Genghis Khan (1206-1227) of the Yuan Dynasty

  ordered the temple rebuilt and invited Qiu

  Changchun, founder of the Longmen sub-sect under the

  Quanzhen sect, to live there in 1224. Qiu died in

  1227 and the Emperor renamed the temple Changchun

  Palace in his memory.

  The temple got its present name in the Ming Dynasty

  (1368-1644) and was damaged twice by war and fire,

  and rebuilt and repaired several times. Today it is

  more or less the same as it was after renovation in


  Before 1949, a large fair was held in the temple

  during the first 20 days of the first lunar month.

  People came from far away to venerate the enshrined

  statues, do business and enjoy themselves.

  Since liberation, the People's Government has had a

  policy of freedom of religion, and it has protected

  cultural relics and historical sites. Twice, in 1956

  and 1981, the government has allocated large sums of

  money to renovate the temple. During the "cultural

  revolution", it was preserved intact, thanks to an

  army unit stationed here.

  The temple is fronted by a magnificent archway. Its

  buildings are laid out around three parallel axes in

  several courtyards.

  On the central axis, from south to north, are the

  shrine-halls of Lingguan (the door guard), the Jade

  Emperor, Qiu Changchun, Siyu (four major deities)

  and Laolu (the old way).

  Qiu Changchun Hall is on the site where Qiu died in

  1227. Inside the hall, Qiu's statue is enshrined. In

  front of the statue is a valuable relic - a huge

  bowl made of the knotted root of tree. It was given

  in offering by Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795). Qiu's

  remains are buried beneath the bowl, into which the

  faithful still offer money.

  In Laolu Hall are seven statues of Taoist saints,

  including Qiu Changchun. On the right is a "drum

  dating from the Ming Dynasty with a dragon painted

  on the leather drumhead.

  Along the west axis stand shrine-halls of Yuanjun

  (major female deities), Yuanchen (60-year deities),

  Baxian (the eight immortals), Luzu (or Lu Dongbin),

  and the Citang (the ancestral worship hall).

  Yuanchen Hall dates from 1190 when it was built by

  Emperor Zhangzong (1190-1208) of the Jin Dynasty to

  worship the deity of the year in which his mother

  was born. On the side walls are portraits of each of

  the deities for the 60-year cycle of the Chinese

  lunar calendar. Some visitors like to find the deity

  of the year in which they were born. This hall has

  been the most frequently visited by worshippers over

  the centuries.

  In the temple are about 30 Taoist priests, who came

  from Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Zhejiang and

  other provinces. They are in robes and wear their

  hair long and tied into a knot that is kept in place

  with a silver or jade pin. Some also wear a



Editor : Zhu Jia

Opening ceremony of Beijing Olympics