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Zhihua Temple

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Zhihua Temple, which located at the Lumicang Hutong in Dongcheng District in Beijing, is a Buddhist Temple with the intact wooden structure of Ming architecture style. The temple initially built by Wang Zhen who was a powerful eunuch of the Ming imperial court in 1443 as his private temple. Covering an area of 20,000 square meters, the temple is exquisite and grandeur.

From the temple gate inwards, there are in turn the Clock Pavilion and the Drum Pavilion, the Gate of Wisdom and Cultivation, the Hall of Wisdom and Cultivation, the Hall of Great Wisdom, the Tibetan Hall, the Hall of Tathagata, the Hall of Great Sorrow and so on. Among them, the Hall of Tathagata is the most exquisite and elegant, which has two storeys and enshrines the Statue of Tathagata. On the upper floor, there are more than 9,000 little niches in the walls, and therefore it is also called Pavilion of Ten-Thousand Buddha. On the top of the bright room inside the pavilion, there are eight exquisitely carved sunk panels with gorgeous decorations and gold foils. The edges of the sunken panels are carved into little palaces, pavilions and shrines, complicatedly decorated. They are rarely seen among the extant ancient structures in China. However from 1930 to 1934, some monks stole and sold them, which are now preserved in the Nelson Museum in United States. The Zhuanlunzai (Wheel Carrier) in the Tibetan Hall is an octagonal wooden structure with a pedestal built of white marble. Engraved on the cabinets are patterns of golden-wing birds in relief, dragon girls, immortals, lions and beasts. These well-designed patterns are exquisite artistic works, showing a lot of imagination.

The temple houses 1,521 pieces of historical relics, and a set of wood blocks for printing the Great Buddhist Scriptures. They are the only existing official wood blocks for printing Chinese-character Buddhist scriptures in the country. But the most valuable cultural relics here are the temple music and music scores dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) with more than 500 years history, which is known as one of the oldest forms of traditional Chinese music and considered as the living fossil of the ancient music. Temple music at Zhihua Temple consisted of instrumental music or capital music, Jingyinyue (a kind of slow and quiet music including Buddhist, folk and imperial palace music) and Buddhist songs. It is a rare and precious national treasure with high values on history, science and art.

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