Tag Archives: 白龙观

Fushou Temple

IMG_20160716_162621[1]

Qingming Mountain, over in the northeastern arm of Wujin, seems to be a spiritual destination in Changzhou. Dalin and Bailong temples are located there, and both are equally large as Buddhist and Taoist religious destinations. Both cost about 10 RMB to get in. But Qingming seems home to other places. A cemetery covers a lot of the hill. There is also a perpetually closed martyr’s graveyard, and then there is also Fushou Temple.

Every time I have visited Dalin or Bailong, the doors were usually closed and locked. Recently, I returned to Qingming Mountain to visit Dalin — as part of ongoing research into who and what louhans are in Buddhism. This time, Fushou’s doors were open, and there was a red and yellow banner over the entrance. Cars were parked there. I parked my bike and I walked in.

Unlike Dalin and Bailong, nobody was at the door to collect an entrance fee. I have seen this in temples around Changzhou when they are attempting to focus more as a place of worship and less as a tourist destination. As I walked around the temple grounds, one other thing just reinforced this. I passed by the main hall and heard chanting and a drum. I stopped to peer in. However, whenever I hear religious activity in progress, I tend to leave it alone. So, I didn’t enter that hall. Half an hour later, as I was leaving, I noticed the door to that big altar hall had been closed.

IMG_20160716_163217[1]

One of the most intriguing things, however, was not that shut entrance. Fushou Temple is the home to three large golden statues. There is also a room of what looked to be white-jade sculptures — one of which is a reclining Buddha. In this building, I climbed a set of stairs to the second level and found an empty space. Still, I was able to get a good shot of the three gold statues from behind.

IMG_20160716_163532[1]

The empty space reminded me of something else about Fushou. A lot of it seems to be renovation in progress. This isn’t like what you see at neighboring Dalin Temple, where new additions like an underground parking lot is being added. This looked like Fushou’s main facilities are getting an upgrade. After all, there was a cement mixer laying out in the open, as well as large stacks of concrete tiles. This puts the temple, like so many other places around Changzhou, on my “to watch list.” With a lot of facilities under renovation, this place could look completely different in one year. My guess, though, is that the three statues will remain.

IMG_20160716_163915[1]

 

Disembodied Buddhas

IMG_20160529_133329[1]

If you have been to enough Taoist or Buddhist Temples around Changzhou and other cities, you would see a lot of sculptures, carvings, and artwork displaying Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, lohans, Taoist gods, and much more. Temples are particularly ornate in the their decor.  In most cases, no two temples are alike either.

Crafting the works of art must be an industry unto itself. I only just realized this by accident. I was riding my ebike along the S232 highway in western Wujin. This is the part of the district that borders on Jiangyin. Dalin Temple and Qingming Mountain are also nearby. Out of the corner of my vision, I saw something like a Buddha sitting in an alley. So, I backed up and pulled into the alley. There, I saw something I have never, ever seen in Changzhou before. These were half finished, almost cast aside religious statues. For instance, a Buddha without a head. There was a fat Milefo laughing Buddha covered with splintered wood.

The varying degrees of incompleteness was also a bit interesting. Sometimes, when you see a statue in a temple, you may mistakenly think that they were carved or cast in a forge. Not the case with this lot. Much of what I saw consisted of smaller pieces that were numbered and riveted together almost like three-dimensional jigsaw puzzles.

This had me intrigued. It wasn’t the least bit unnerving to look it. Logically, it made sense if these was a religious sculpture workshop nearby. After all, not only is Dalin Temple nearby, but so is the Taoist Bailong Monastery — both seem to have ongoing construction for additions, too. But, quickly scanned the area. I took a picture of one factory’s name, but a Chinese friend quickly informed me, via WeChat, it was a business involving water treatment equipment. Maybe I saw it but didn’t see it. In the end, I gave up and left it what it should be, a bizarre mystery. Sometimes, that’s more fun than actually having a real answer.

IMG_20160529_141244[1]

IMG_20160529_141053[1]

IMG_20160529_142717[1]

IMG_20160529_142831[1]

A Taoist Middle Finger

IMG_20160516_210244
In New Jersey, this could be taken as “How Ya Doin?” And being rude is a just a way of saying “Hi, I love you!”

Hand gestures mean different things in different cultures. For example, sticking out a pinkie and a thumb means “six” in China. In the USA, it’s a thing surfers used to do instead of saying “cool.” Los Angeles gang signs are a topic I just want to skip completely. Yet, this was something I was forced to consider recently when visiting Taoist Temples in Changzhou.

Specifically, I was at Bailong Monastery 白龙观 in Wujin’s eastern arm. Once you walk through the front door, you see a golden figure with a sword raised. He has quite a scowl on his face, and he also holding up his middle finger. Back in Jersey and the USA, that would definitely be considered rude. The middle finger essentially means “Fuck you.” It’s a hell of a thing to be greeted with once you walk through the door. I later learned the statue is of a god named Wei Tuo 韦陀. So, was he telling me to fuck off? While threatening to hit me?

Um, no. Again, hand gestures can mean several things in several different cultures. Especially in Asian religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Hand signs are sometimes referred to as mudras, and they are meant to be meaningful sources of magical power. It’s why you see people use them in meditation. So, Wei Tuo’s middle finger is not meant to be rude. I think.

However, it’s a bit murky — especially once you do research into who Wei Tuo actually is. This is where it gets a little confusing for me. When I search his name, he often comes up as a Buddhist topic and not necessarily a Taoist one. Yet, there is a lot of bleed over between the religions. It’s sort of similar when you consider Christianity, Judaism, and Islam: three religions sharing the same set of angels. Taoism and Chinese Buddhism share a lot of the same gods.

As for Wei Tuo, he is often considered the guardian of teaching. In some legends, he’s the bodyguard to Guanyin, a goddess of mercy. In this regard, it makes sense that he is the first thing you see once you enter a temple or monastery. He is there to protect the place and keep out ghosts, demons, and unclean spirits. In this regard, you can read the western meaning of the middle finger into this. If you are a monster with ill intent, and you’re trying to enter Bailong Monastery, Wei Tuo will definitely tell you to fuck off.

IMG_20160516_210305