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Architecture and Layout of Temple of Azure


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The Temple of the Azure Clouds was built on six different levels, and each of the interconnecting courtyards has a special character. The most famous buildings inside the temple, however, are the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, the Five Hundred Arhats Hall and the Vajra Throne Tower.

A stone-paved road leads from the front gate of Xiangshan (Fragrant Hills) Park directly to the entrance gate of the temple. The gate of Azure Clouds which is faced by the stone lions is called the Mountain Gate. A brook runs outside the temple and passes before the gate of the park.

On both sides of this temple are two Buddhist guardians which were carved during the Ming Dynasty and each being five meters in height. Inside the first compound are the Bell Tower and Drum Tower, while in the center stands the Devaraja (Heavenly Kings) Hall, which houses a bronze image of Maitreya Buddha cast in the Ming Dynasty. A goldfish pond in this courtyard is surrounded by ancient sal trees, white-bark sandalwood trees and gingko trees.

The second courtyard contains the main hall of the temple complex. Inside the hall stand images of Sakyamuni and his disciples. A series of clay figurines standing against the walls make up a diorama of the monk Xuanzang s passage to India in quest of Buddhist scriptures.

The principal building in the third courtyard is the Hall of Bodhisattvas. The two roofed corridors that once stood here have fallen into decay.

The buildings in the fourth courtyard consist of the Rear Hall and its auxiliary halls, all of which are laid out in an orderly and harmonious manner. This complex now serves as the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. There is a red wooden plaque hanging above the front gate of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, the words on the plaque which is engraved in gold was written by his wife, Song Qingling. Inside this hall lies an empty crystal coffin presented by the USSR government in 1925 in memory of Sun Yat-sen, because his body had already been buried elsewhere, the coffin was left here till now. Photos of Sun Yat-sen, his handwriting, his books and his statue are also on display inside this hall. Behind this is a stone memorial archway, which leads to the Diamond Throne Pagoda.

The principal building in the western courtyard is the Hall of the Arhats, designed in the form of a Greek cross. The Hall of Five Hundred Arhas is modeled on the Jingci Temple in Hangzhou. There are altogether 500 gilded wooden images and seven Buddha mages crowded in to the hall. Each of these fine specimens of Qing Dynasty woodcarving has its own individual personalities and expressions. In addition to these life-sized images, there is also a miniature statue of Jigong perching on an overhead beam. The legend tells that having arrived late, he was unable to find a seat among the other immortals.

In the northern part of the compound are the Spring Garden, the Azure Hall of Study and the Eyeglasses Pond. In the Spring Garden on the western side of the temple, underground streams from a mountain spring can be seen gushing out of the crevices in the rocks. Rocks, pavilions, pines and cypresses embellish the spot, making it ideal for relaxation and meditation.


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