White Dagoba Temple is a Lamaist temple. Lamaism is a branch of Buddhism. Nepal was one of the sources of early Buddhism. Lamaism was introduced to china during the Tang Dynasty but was not widespread until the Yuan Dynasty. It became popular especially in Tibet. During the same period inverted-bowl-style dagobas were widely adopted by Lamaist monasteries. The oldest extant large-scale Lamaist dagoba is the White Dagoba at Beijing's Miaoying Temple also called White Dagoba Temple. It was designed and built by a Nepalese artisan, Anika.
The temple has experienced a long period of uncertainty during Chinese history of more than 700 years. In the year 1271, Mongolian leader Kublai Khan united the whole country and started the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). The governor of the spacious and mysterious Tibet also began to succumb to the central state at this time. To consolidate the relationship between the empire and the monkish power in Tibet and to gain the agreement of the Tibetan Buddhists among the Yuan officials, Kublai Khan granted imperial permission to build the White Dagoba. When it was completed in the year 1279, a further decree was given to grant the building of yet another temple around the dagoba within an area of 160,000 square meters (39.54 acres), which was defined by the landing spots of arrows shot in the four directions by the Emperor from the top of the dagoba. It was then obliged to adopt the name of Dashengshou Wan'an Si. The Dagoba, along with the capital Dadu (present Beijing), was called 'Golden City and Jade Dagoba by the people then because of their grandiose appearance.
Unfortunately, the temple was burnt to the ground in the year 1368, and amazingly only the White Dagoba remained. In the year 1457 of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Emperor Tianshun commanded the rebuild of the temple, which covered an area of 13,000 square meters (3.2 acres), much smaller than the original dimensions. It was then renamed 'Miaoying Si'.
Originally known as Miao Ying Si, the temple has undergone numerous reconstructions, usually as a result of fire. The Dajue Dian (Hall of the Great Enlightened Ones), the first building, contains thousands of little Buddhas in glass cases, set into the columns. An earthquake in 1976 turned up numerous artifacts, some of which are now on display in the museum. You'll find Buddhist statuary demonstrating ritualistic hand positions (mudra) and vivid thangka (silk hangings depicting Buddhist images). It has been renewed in more recent times, but not as extensively as before.
The temple is mainly composed of the White Dagoba and four halls, which store many lifelike Buddhist statues, classical Buddhist scriptures, five Buddhas' crowns, flowery cassocks, colorful fabrics and other rare valuables. The most famous is the golden Dagoba Longevity Statue at the height of 5 cm. with over 40 rubies and bronzy Kwan-yin Bodhisattva Statue with a thousand hands and eyes. It is the earliest known place for translating Buddhist scriptures.
However, it mainly functioned as the imperial temple in the Yuan Dynasty. The governor then stipulated that all the important ceremonies should be rehearsed here three days ahead of the actual ritual. The sacrificial ceremony of Kublai Khan was also held here when he died, which proves the importance of this temple. In the later days of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), this temple became one of the most renowned spots for temple fairs, which formed the popular saying 'August eighth, white dagoba walks'. There was also a custom, on the lunar 25th Oct. (the anniversary date of the completion of the dagoba) in every year, many lamas walked around the circle of the dagoba, lauding the scriptures and playing music. Even nowadays many devout people pray for blessings around the dagoba.
The White Dagoba
The White Dagoba stands north of the centre of the temple, which was designed by the Nepalese architect Anigo, whose work also includes the Buddhist Temples in Mt. Wutai. The bottom of the dagoba is a three-layered seat; the body appears to resemble an upside-down ice cream cone, which makes it an interesting construction. Near the top is a solid canopy made of beaten bronze above and thick wood at the bottom, which is well supported by a number of iron chains. The dagoba is topped by another small stupa. Small Buddhist characters and statues adorn the borders as well as wind chimes, which transmit a clear and pleasant chime carried along in the breeze.
It is the earliest and largest Tibetan dagoba that remains as a witness of the once resplendence region of Dadu during the Yuan Dynasty and the friendship that existed between China and Nepal. It has now been listed as a key cultural spot that is now under the protection of the Chinese State Department. With its high cultural value and heavenly beauty, the White Dagoba Temple is bound to amaze you and leave you with a unique and lasting impression of your visit.