Saturday, April 18: After leaving the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, I decide I’ll walk to Daxingshan Si, Xi’an’s only working Buddhist temple. Lonely Planet China says that it’s “just south of” the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, but I think it’s “just south” only if you’re in some kind of vehicle. It’s a long trek south if you’re on foot, which I am. Isn’t it funny how deceiving maps and guidebooks can be? It always appears that places are so close, when in reality they can be quite a long distance! 🙂
By the time I finally arrive here, after I get lost and sidetracked several times, my legs are killing me. Already today, I’ve been to the Beilin Museum and the Small Wild Goose Pagoda; inside both of these, I already did a lot of walking. I haven’t yet eaten and my legs are tired, but I keep on going nonetheless.
The Daxingshan Temple (大兴善寺) was an important temple during the Western Jin Dynasty (265-316), during which time about 90% of the people around Chang’an, now modern Xi’an, became Buddhists. According to China Highlights: Daxingshan Temple, South Asian scholars worked here to translate scriptures. The temple was destroyed in the 840s during the Tang era, and it wasn’t rebuilt until the Qing dynasty in 1725, with several other restorations in 1956, when it was used by Tibetan Buddhist monks, and again in 1983. The Cultural Revolution brought an end to the Tibetan Buddhist monks’ worship here.
In the first hall just inside the entrance, to the right, is a hall where I find some scary depictions of hell. I’m surprised by this as I never even knew Buddhism had a hell.
I’m happy to escape this hall and emerge into the light. The temple complex is really nice, with its golden-eaved buildings and expansive gardens. People are bowing and praying with incense offerings. I find lotus candles burning, prayer wheels, and people worshipping in all areas of the temple.
I love the dragon relief sculpture on an island in the middle of the stairs leading to the main hall.
Inside the main hall are five golden Buddhas.
Lying on the ground to the side of the main hall, I find terra-cotta tiles with prayers written on them.
There are some beautiful lanterns up under the eaves.
And inside, I find a woman standing on some kind of a fish.
There are even incense sticks for sale.
The red walls of the temple buildings make a perfect backdrop for the pretty gardens.
I love seeing Buddhists offering their incense and prayers to the Buddha.
I even find a laughing Buddha on the grounds.
As I make my way back to the entrance, I find another hall directly across from the other hall that depicted hell, and inside that hall are more frightening and disturbing scenes of the dark underworld.
Finally, I make my way back out through the temple entrance. By now my legs are so sore, I know I must catch a ride to my next destination, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.
I flag down a 3-wheeled taxi and bump along to a row of restaurants right outside the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. Finally, I can get some lunch. Much to my surprise, I find an Indian restaurant, where I eat a delicious meal that makes me feel sick to my stomach even while I’m eating it. That doesn’t stop me from eating it however, because it tastes delicious. For a long while later, I regret eating this, as my stomach doesn’t sit well after it.
I head to the huge complex surrounding the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, happy to have eaten the only Indian food I’ve had in China, even if it did make me sick. 🙂