Famen Temple

On August 19, 2011, in Other Places of Interest, Temples, Xi'an, by Jack Li

Famen Temple (Buddhism Door, meaning the initial approach to becoming a Buddhist believer) is a well known Buddhist temple located in Famen County 10 km away from Baoji City. The Temple was started built in the Han Dynasty. Legend has it that the Indian King Asoka of India traveled throughout Asia, distributing Buddhist relics as atonement for his sins and war addiction. In China, he built this Temple and left the fingers of Buddha to be enshrined here.

Emperors in the Tang Dynasty revered this sacred relic and regularly walked through the streets with the fingers as a huge worshipping ceremony. The Tang Emperors offered exquisite gifts to the fingers in an attempt to better their predecessors’ offerings. This legend was dismissed until 1981 when heavy rains revealed the crypt, shrine and underground palace by accident. The crypt contains the Buddha’s fingers and gifts from the Emperors. The site is still seen as an important place of pilgrimage for Buddhists today.

The museum here is excellent and contains objects from the Tang Dynasty including sacrificial offerings and royal gifts. The first relic or sarira was found in an exquisitely executed container of eight interested cases in the back chamber of the underground shelter. It was taken of Fufeng County Museum and opened there at a ceremony presided over by the abbot of Famen Monastery at 1.15 in the morning on May 5, coinciding with the eighth day of the fourth month of the lunar calendar and the 2, 553rd anniversary of the birth of Sakyamuni. 

The Stories fo Famen Temple

1. Sacred relics of Sakyamuni

On April 3, 1987 the Tang Dynasty Underground Palace was revealed to the world after 1113 years of sleeping in the underground. Among the excavations there are four pieces of Sacred Relics of Sakyamuni which are the only ones throughout the world. Two of the relics are made of white jade and one of the other two is relics of another eminent monk. All of the three are “shadow” relics of the real one and they are here to protect the real relic of Sakyamuni. It has been confirmed it is authentic for is has yellow bone secretion. Thus Famen Temple is known for a Buddhist sacred land for believers.

2. The Tallest Buddhist Pagoda in the world

The pagoda measures 148m in the shape of two hands putting the palms together, under which a sliver of the finger bone of Sakyamuni was discovered. The hollow in between is a Tang-style pagoda. In front of the pagoda there built a 1230m long and 108m wide avenue. The ends of the avenue stand two squares housing for 100,000 people if grand ceremonies are served. In 1981, it was found that the pagoda was gradually sinking into the ground. This led to restoration during which an Underground Palace was unearthed. At present, this is the largest Buddhist underground palace discovered so far. Many royal treasures and jewelry were found here – more than 2,000 pieces surrounded the Tang mandala. The most precious item was the veritable Finger Bone of the Sakyamuni Buddha.

Jack Li

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