When we talk about the Xi’an, we always consider it as the capital city of 13 dynasties, but the city is also a Buddhist sacred place. In Xi'an, there are "four great centers of scripture translation” and “six birthplaces of Buddhist Schools”, and Xi’an can be called the "second home of Buddhism".
The birthplaces of Buddhist Schools (Mandarin: Zu Ting, meaning: ancestral hall), refer to the temples where the Buddhist masters and founders of the schools of Buddhism usually lived and preached, or died and were buried. After Buddhism was introduced to China from India, with five or six hundred years of development, Buddhism reached its peak time during the Sui and Tang dynasties. At that time, Chang'an City, with an inclusive attitude, accepted a variety of different cultures. Different schools of Chinese Buddhism also started to emerge.
Due to the different angles of interpretation and practice methods, Buddhism in China are divided eight schools, of which the birthplaces of six schools are in Xi'an: the Sānlùn school (East Asian Mādhyamaka), the Faxiang (Dharmalaksana) School, the Huayan (Avatamsaka) School, the Chan (Zen) School, the Jingtu (Pure Land) School, and the School of Vajrayana (Mi-Zong) Of the other two schools, the birthplace of the Chan School is in Shaolin Temple in Henan province, and the birthplace of the Tendai (Tiantai) School is in Guoqing Temple, Tantai Mountain in Zhejiang.
During the Sui and Tang dynasties, Buddhist monks and masters gathered in Chang’an, working on the translation of the sculptures, preaching or collecting and teaching disciples. Hence there were also “three translation sites” of Buddhist scriptures: Dacien Temple under the abbotship of Xuanzang, Jianfu Temple under the abbotship of Yijing, and Daxingshan Temple under the abbotship of Bukong. The three temples, together with the former Kumarajiva's Caotang Temple, are known as “four great centers of scripture translation” in Chang'an.
The Brahma chanting in Chang'an City passed down thousands of years, in space and time, between Earth and Heaven. Therefore, if you come to Xi’an, you should not only visit the places of historic interest and scenic spots, but also open a new path to get on the theme route of Buddhist birthplace pilgrimage, to visit the temples hidden in the mountains or among the city streets.
Jingye Temple Daxingshan Temple Huayan Temple Caotang Temple Dacien Temple Xiangji Temple
Address
inside Fengyukou, Chang'an District, Xi’an City
Opening hours
08:00~17:00
Tickets price
25 Yuan RMB
        The Lv (Ritsu) School was founded by Monk Daoxuan in the Tang Dynasty. It was named because of the focus on learning and practicing of the disciplines. The Ritsu School belongs to the Mahāyāna schools focusing on the disciplines and doctrine (siladhamma) according to Dharmagupta-vinaya of the five canonical texts.
        Jingye Temple, the Birthplace of the Lv (Ritsu) School, was founded in the 1st year of the Sui Kaihuang period of Emperor Wen (581 AD), located in the north end of Zhongnan Mountains, the Phoenix Mountain (Fenghuang Shan). Here, the shape of the mountains is like a phoenix, with the landform like a dragon, steep and dignified, with streams deep in the forests. Jingye Temple is on the hillside against the cliff, facing the south. Qinghua Mountain is to the east, and Fengyu River is to the west. Today, in the Phoenix Mountain, still the Sarira Pagoda of Master Daoxuan. In front of the temple there is a hollow-ancient locust tree planted in the Tang dynasty. It withered during the "Cultural Revolution", and has been alive again since the 1980s.
        There is another very famous monk, Master Jianzhen in the Tang dynasty of the Lv (Ritsu) School, and is credited with the introduction of the Ritsu school of Buddhism to Japan as the founder of this school in Japan. Jianzhen is the first Buddhist master to go to Japan and to start the Ritsu school in Japan.
        During the Tang dynasty, Jingye Temple was very popular because of the promotion of the Lv (Ritsu) School by Daoxuan. But then it gradually declined, clinging to the outmoded tradition for hundreds of years. In the ten-year “cultural revolution”, the temple was abolished, all the sculptures and statues were gone, and the Daoxuan Pagoda was also demolished. Until the 1980's, the government provided funding for the reconstruction of Daoxuan Pagoda, and the scale of Jingye Temple was restored. In today's Jingye Temple, the gilt board with inscriptions of “Jing Ye Si” characters were written by Master Nan Huai-Chin.
Address
No.55, Xingshansi West Street, Xi’an City, Shaanxi Province
Opening hours
08:00~17:00
Tickets price
free
        Daxingshan Temple, originally named as “Zunshan Temple”, was built in the 2nd year of the Jin Taishi period under the reign of Emperor Wu of Jin (226 AD), with a history of more than 1,700 years, and is one of the oldest surviving Buddhist temples in Xi’an.
        During the reign of Emperor Wen of Sui, Xi’an was expanded and named “Daxing City”. And Daxingshan Temple accounted for a corner in the city, in Jingshan Workshop area. The temple was named after the name of the city “Daxing” and the partial name of the workshop area “Shan”. This name has been used to date. In the Sui and Tang dynasties, Buddhism was prevailing in Chang'an. The monks from India to Changan preaching or studying in Chang, once stayed in Daxingshan Temple, translated Buddhist sutras and promulgated the School of Vajrayana here.
        Daxingshan Temple was the first official national translation site of Buddhist scriptures. In the early years of Tang Kaiyuan period of Emperor Xuanzong (716-720 AD), India monks Śubhakarasiṃha (Shanwuwei), Vajrabodhi (Jingangzhi) and Amoghavajra (Bukong), the Three Masters of Kaiyuan, translated more than 500 volumes of Buddhist sutras of the School of Vajrayana here. Later, Emperor Xuanzong Li Longji rebuilt the official national translation site of Buddhist sculptures in Daxingshan Temple. Under the abbotship of Amoghavajra (Bukong), the major scriptures and classics of the School of Vajrayana were translated, and the reading rituals were also established. Hence, the School of Vajrayana of Buddhism in China was formally set up, and Daxingshan Temple became the birthplace of the School of Vajrayana.
        The School of Vajrayana, among all schools of Buddhism, was the last one that was started in China. This school relies on esoteric transmission with no initiation (permission to practice), and cannot be imparted or shown to others, hence the term esoteric. The two main source texts were the Mahāvairocana Abhisaṃbodhi Tantra, and the Tattvasaṃgraha Tantra.
        The disciple of Amoghavajra (Bukong) Huiguo was the abbot of Qinglong Temple. and the Japanese monk Kukai (Konghai) visited Tang to study Buddhism with Huiguo. He followed Huiguo and studied the doctrines of the School of Vajrayana. Returning to Japan, Kukai founded Shingon (Mandarin: Zhenyan, also: Tangmi). In October 1985, for the 1150 anniversary of the Parinirvana (passing away) of Kukai, the Japanese Association of the Studies of Kukai donated a bronze standing statue of the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva to Daxingshan Temple, approximately l.70 meters high.
        Currently, Daxingshan Temple covers an area of about more than 120 acres, has 243 rooms and halls. The main building are arranged in a straight line from south to north on the central axis, including the Hall of the Celestial Kings (Tianwang Dian), the Mahavira Hall, the Hall of Goddess of Mercy (Guanyin Dian), the east and west Halls of Zen, and the Dharma Hall. In addition, there are also green carved stone lions (Tang), incense wood sculpture of Thousand-handed and Thousand-eged Guanyin, the statues of Twenty-one Taras tributed by Tibetan Lama in the Qing Kangxi period, and the statue of Tathagata Buddha (Ming) and other precious religious artifacts.
Address
Duqu Town, Chang'an District, Xi’an City
Opening hours
10:00~17:00
Tickets price
free
        Huayan Temple, built in the Tang Zhenguan period during the reign of Emperor Taizong, was a famous scenic spot in southern Chang'an, and attracted many intellectuals and calligraphers who left a large number of famous poems and proses. Here, Master Dushun founded the Huayan (Avatamsaka) School according to the doctrine in Avatamsaka Sutra. Huayan Temple was very dignified and attracted many famous monks and masters in this beautiful environment, and was once the center of Buddhism in the world.
        The Five Elders of the Huayan (Avatamsaka) School lived in Huayan Temple and promulgated the doctrines here. After Parinirvana, the relics were worshiped in this temple. After years of vicissitudes, Huayan Temple no longer enjoys the old spectacular times, however, the relics of the first elder Master Dushun and the fourth elder Master Chengguan, the Huayan (Avatamsaka) School, and Huayan Temple together have become the spirit guide, as the most powerful testimony of history.
        Huayan Temple, is located on the more than 30 meters of the barrier of loess, including some caves of Northwest Chinese buildings, known as the “cave monastery”. During the years of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty, there was a collapse of Shaoling Plateau. All the other buildings were ruined except the two brick towers, the Sarira Pagodas of the first and the fourth elders, and the sleles. Later, due to many years out of repair, Huayan Temple was dilapidated with huge losses of the cultural relics, and was once the only birthplace temple of Chinese Buddhism that was not recovered. In 2009, the reconstruction project of Huayan Temple was launched.
Address
north hillsides of Guifengshan Mountain, Hu County, Xi’an City, Shaanxi Province
Opening hours
09:00~17:00
Tickets price
high season: 25 Yuan RMB; low season: 15 Yuan RMB
        Caotang Temple, located in the north hillsides of Guifengshan Mountain in Hu County, has a story of more than 1,600 years. During the times of Eastern Jin dynasty and the period of the Sixteen Kingdoms, the king of Qin Kingdom Yao Xing advocated Buddhism, and invited the Qiuci monk Kumarajiva to chang'an in the 3rd year of Hongshi (401 AD), who stayed in Ximing Pavilion of Xiaoyao Garden to translate Buddhist scriptures. Later, Caotang Temple was founded in the garden for Kumarajiva to live in. Kumarajiva translation site was covered by grass mats as roof, hence the name of Caotang Temple (meaning: the grass thatch temple).
        Kumarajiva’s translation was free translation, elegant, fluent and accurate, thus he created a free translation school of Buddhist translation. In Caotang Temple, Kumarajiva finished the translation of "The Middle Treatise” (Zhonglun), "The Treatise on the Twelve Gates" (Shiermenlun) and "The Hundred Treatise" (Bailun), as the three foundational texts of the Sanlun School (East Asian Mādhyamaka). Therefore, he is considered as the founder of the Sanlun School, and Caotang Temple as the birthplace of the Sanlun School.
        Kumarajiva also finished the translation of Satyasiddhi-sastra, and promoted the doctrine of Satyasiddhi-sastra. Therefore, Caotang Temple is also considered as the birthplace of the school of Satyasiddhi. Besides, the fifth elder of Huayan School (Avatamsaka) Master Dinghui preached and wrote classic books here in Caotang Temple for many years. Caotang Temple is also considered as another birthplace of the Huayan School (Avatamsaka). Monk Nichiren (Rilian) studied the The Lotus Sūtra (Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra) translated by Kumarajiva and founded the School of Nichiren Buddhism. And the followers of the School of Nichiren consider Caotang Temple as the birthplace of the School of Nichiren, and honor Kumarajiva as the first elder of Nichiren Buddhism. Caotang Temple, as the birthplace of the School of Sanlun (East Asian Mādhyamaka), the School of Huayan (Avatamsaka) and Japanese Buddhist School of Nichiren, is unique in the world.
        Today, in Caotang Temple, there are tall pines and cypresses, bamboo woods and delicate pavilions, with a very artistic conception. As one of the “Eight Scenes of Guanzhong”, the mist of Caotang Temple vanished because of geothermal reasons. However, the mist well built in the ancient years still adds a touch of mystery to the temple. Also, in Caotang Temple, there is the first chinar tree in China, planted by Kumarajiva with his own hands (also known as the Kumarajiva tree), 1000 years earlier than the chinar trees in Shanghai French Concession.
Address
North side of South Square of Big Wild Goose Pagoda, north end of Yanta South Road, Xi’an City, Shaanxi Province
Opening hours
08:00~17:00
Tickets price
Dacien Temple: 50 Yuan RMB (student with ID: 30 Yuan RMB; free of charge for military personnel, retired and disabled and senior people older than 70 with ID)
        Dacien Temple was built by the Crown Prince Li Zhi of Tang in the 22ed year of the Tang Zhenguan period of Emperor Taizong (648 AD), in memory of his deceased mother Queen Wende. This temple was grand and magnificent with a quiet environment, and was the biggest royal temple in Chang’an City. Master Tang Xuanzang was the Abbot here, managed the translation of Buddhist sutras and started one of the eight Chinese Buddhist schools, the School of Weishi (Vijnanavada). Hence, Dacien Temple became the birthplace of the School of Weishi (Vijnanavada). The doctrine of the School of Weishi (Vijnanavada) holds that all the rules (dharma) are ruled by shi (vijnana). And everything in the universe is realized by vijnana. Hence the name of Weishi (Vijnanavada).
        In the 1st year of Tang Zhenguan period, Tang Xuanzang went to the west with a distance of 25,000 kilometers and arrived at the Buddhist Centre Nalanda Temple to get the Buddhist scriptures. He brought back 150 Sarira, 7 statues, and 657 volumes of Buddha scriptures and classics. He finished the translation of Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra (Dabore Jing), the Heart Sutra (Xin Jing), Vijnaptimatratasiddhi-sastra (Chengweishi Lun), and so on.
        For the preservation of these scriptures, statues and relics, Sarira, Xuanzang personally supervised the construction of Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a 7-storey tower in the temple. Legend has it that in a Theravada Temple in India, the cook monk saw a flock of wild geese flying over the sky, and he thought: "If only I could get a goose to cook for the Abbot!” Just then, a goose fell down, hit the ground and died on the spot. This was the manifestation of the Bodhisattva who sacrificed himself for charity, for the sake of others. Monks in the temple were moved. They held a solemn ceremony and buried the goose. They also built a pagoda on the spot where the goose fell down, and named it the “Goose Pagoda”, in honor of this goose as the Bodhisattva's incarnation. The Tang Buddhist Master Xuanzang visited and paid his respects to the Goose Pagoda when he travelled in a pilgrimage for Buddhist scriptures in India, and used this name for the pagoda in Dacien Temple.
        In Great Tang Records on the Western Regions, there are records of the geography, cities and towns, agriculture and local customs of 110 countries that he had been to and 28 countries that he only heard of during his journey to the West Regions. After 1,300 years, British archaeologists and Indian scholars had the English translations of Great Tang Records on the Western Regions and tracked the descriptions in ancient India maps, and revealed the history of the medieval India, including the symbol of India, the headstone of Ashoka Pillar. India historian Ali said: "Without the works of Xuanzang and Faxian, the rebuilding of Indian history is impossible.” Therefore, Dacien Temple has been very important in the history of Buddhism in China, and has attracted much attention in the Buddhist community.
        Today, the Brahma chanting still comes from Dacien Temple. After thousands of years, it still has countless visitors with the burning incense. In Big Wild Goose Pagoda, there are also a lot of cultural relics, including the most precious two pieces of pattra-leaf Scriptures: with a length of 40cm and a width of 7 cm. There wasn’t any paper in ancient India, and people wrote on pattra leaves instead. All the 657 Buddhist scriptures that brough back by Xuanzang along the Silk Road were written in pattra leaves. There are numerous Sanskrits on them, and it is said that less than 10 scholars in the world can read them.
Address
Xiangjisi Village, Guodu Town, Chang'an District, Xi’an City
Opening hours
08:00~18:00
Tickets price
free
        Built in the 2nd year of the Tang Yonglong period of Emperor Gaozong (681 AD), after the Parinirvana of Master Shandao, one of the founders of the Pure Land School (Jingtu Zong). his disciple Huaiyun built Xiangji Temple and Shandao Pagoda in the memory of his master, making Xiangji Temple the first official temple of the Pure Land School after its official establishment.
        In Xiangji Temple, the buildings and halls are dignified and orderly with elegant environment and large scale. After it was built, Xiangji Temple went through vicissitudes and disasters. Emperor Gaozong and Empress Wu Zetian once visited and worshiped, and donated thousands of Sarira and flags and flowers as offerings. During the An Shi Rebellion, Xiangji Temple suffered a lot and many cultural relics were damaged and lost. In the Song dynasty, the Pure Land School was popular again and Wiangji Temple was restored. After Song, Xiangji Temple declined and was incredibly damped during the Republic of China. And only in the end of 1970s, the restoration was started again.