(National 5A Level Scenic Spot)
The Cultural Tourism Zone of Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple, which is located 3 km from Dali old town, is worth its reputation of Resort of Mt. Lingjiu with its mountains and streams nearby and the tranquil environment. The construction of Chongsheng Temple was initiated during Kaiyuan Period of Tang Dynasty (713AD to 741AD) and reached its peak in the Period of Kingdom of Dali during Song Dynasty after generations of extension. According to Unofficial History of Kingdom of Nanzhao, Chongsheng Temple “covered 7 miles with its 890 Halls in which there were 11,400 statues of Buddha cast with 45,550 Hu of copper”. It boasted to have “3 pavilions,7 storied buildings and 9 halls with a hundred chambers”, which made it for a time the well-known royal monastery and political and educational center during the Kingdom of Dali of Nanzhao with the good reputation of “the Capital of Buddhism”. The magnificent Chongsheng Temple is also famous as Tianlong Temple in The Semi-gods and Semi-evils written by Jin Yong. However, through vicissitudes during the years, it declined and was finally ruined during the late Qing Dynasty with only the three pagodas left.
The renewal of Chongsheng Temple ended the phase when there are pagodas but no temples in Dali and created the double beauty of the temple and the pagodas. The layout scheme of the temple, with the protection of the three pagodas as the core concept and based on the history, referred to the features of the well-known temples abroad and absorbed the essence of the architectures of the five dynasties such as Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing. The construction is carried out along the primary and secondary axes involving 8 terraces, 9 courses of yard and 11 stories.
The whole pseudo-classic architecture complex will cover the area of 600 mu and the area of structure will be as much as 20,080 m2 with the total investment of 182 million Yuan. Along the primary axis, there are Garuda Square, the gate, the Dharmapalas Hall, the Maitreya Hall,the Ten-façade Avalokitesvara Buddhisatva Hall, the Mahavira Hall, Acarya Pavilion, Montemar Maxvision Dolmen and the Sea View Tower in sequence. On both sides of the central axis and the secondary axis, there are the area for the conjuration stuff, Buddhist Abbot Hall, Monastic Reception Hall, the Abstinence Hall, the Arhat Hall, the Thousand-Buddha Gallery, the Hall of Patriach and the Research Institute of Buddhism. The overall arrangement appears magnificent and dignified in manner with unique national features. The statues of Buddha in the temple were created with Zhang Shengwen Hand Scroll of Paintings,the “Statues of Five-hundred Arhats” carved by Li Guangxiu in Ming Dynasty and the unearthed cultural relics of the three temples as the chief sources and therefore have a unique style of Dali by blending the features of both Zen and Vajrayana. There are 617 Buddha statues and ritual items including statues of the two generals named Heng and Ha (4m high standing figures) at the gate, statue of Lord Krishna in the Dharmapalas Hall (5.7m high standing figure), Four Heavenly Kings (5m standing figures), Maitreya statue in the Maitreya Hall (3.7m high sitting figure), the statue of Skanda (3m high standing figure), statue of the Common People (4m high standing figure), the statue of 11-façade Avalokitesvara Buddhisatva in the 11-façade Avalokitesvara Buddhisatva Hall (9.7m high standing figure), statue of Purna Avatar of Avalokitesvara Buddhisatva (4m high sitting or standing figures), statues of Five-hundred Arhats (1.8m high standing or sitting figures), 32 statues of Shakyamuni, Manju, Samantabhadra, Avalokitesvara Buddhisatva, Mahasthamaprapta, Mahakasyapa and Ananda in the Hall of Mahavira Hall (the statue of Shakyamuni is 12.6m high),the statues of the 9 kings of Dali who had converted to Buddhisam in the Hall of Eminent Monks (4m high standing figures), statues of Six Patriarchs including Dhama in the Hall of Patriarch (6m high sitting statues), Statue of Acarya Avalokitesvara Buddhisatva in the Hall of Acarya Avalokitesvara Buddhisatva (12m high standing statue), Statue of Bhaisajyaguru in the Hall of Bhaisajyaguru (1.6m high sitting statue), statue of Mammon with Full Metal Jacket in the Hall of Mammon (4m high sitting statue), and statue of Garuda (6.9m high). Besides, there are 1 pummerin, 5 vajry pestles, 5 prayer wheels and 1 tupan. All the figures of Buddha are casted with bronze, among which 599 are gilded and painted with colors. The total weight of the bronze used is more than one thousand tons—the nation’s most. All the figures are created in various poses and expressions which are lifelike and are highly valued as masterpieces.
The main body of the buildings in Chongsheng Temple is the reinforced concrete structure, with their bracket system, doors and windows as well as the details carved precisely with the top-quality toons. All the buildings along the primary axis are decorated with the highest standard golden dragons and phoenixes as well as the royal colors. And those along the two secondary axes are painted with the solemn and graceful spinor color, and the witty and bright Suzhou-style color is adopted on the verandas, pavilions and the garths. The whole complex therefore looks well-proportions with rises and falls and is splendid and majestic with the beautiful and exquisite carvings. The visitors can find the most original wood carvings there like Zheng Shengwen Hand Scroll of Pictures, one of the wood carving masterpieces, and they would know the stories and legends of the Buddha from the statues and figures which are sophisticated in style. What is more, the diverse and vivid stone carvings there help to create a Buddhism atmosphere full of elegance and serenity. The temple is covered with green. The fresh air together with some modern elements like the splendid luminal art makes Chongsheng Temple an example for the modern Buddhist temple.
As the facilities in the temples are getting more well-functional, Chongsheng Temple will prove to the visitors with its new look of “the Capital of Buddhism” that it would be the best choice for you to cultivate your mind and interpret the Buddhist principles.