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ART & LEISURE: The Lotus of Tianjin
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The Lotus of Tianjin

By Nadia N.

BT 201603 10 Art leisure dabei4Buddhism and China are doubtlessly inseparable. Whether you choose to visit a big megapolis or travel to smaller towns, religious temples, landmarks and places will appear on the way. So, if this great philosophy and culture surrounds us, why not to try to explore it? And there is no better way to get a better understanding, than to visit, experience and see with your own eyes.

One of the oldest and most beautiful temples in Tianjin is the Dabei Temple (Da Bei Yuan, 大悲院). It is quite easy to get to -- located in HeBei District, neighbouring the Tianjin Eye and Lion Bridge.

The temple looks impressively good and new for its age - it was originally built at the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). During such a long history it was reconstructed, renovated, damaged and recovered, but never forgotten. Of course, due to its age, this monastery looks different from its "golden years", but it still breaths with history.

The modern Dabei temple consists of two parts: the old (West Temple) and the new (East Temple). The New East Temple was added to the monastery by the monk, Long Xian in 1940, and now the temple, its yards and gardens cover more than 10,000 square metres. The new part of the monastery is now used as the site of a Buddhism Institute, and includes Wenwu Hall and Abbot Hall.

One of the pearls of the monastery is the statue of Kwan-Yin of One Thousand Hands. Kwan-Yin or Guanyin is a merciful Goddess of compassion - her full name can be translated as "Perceiving the Cries of the World". This Goddess is especially loved by Buddhists, some of them even believe that she places souls in the heart of a lotus and sends them to Pure Lands. The statue is over three meters tall and is made in such a way her eyes can look in all directions. There are a lot of temples with statues of the Goddess in China, but one of the most breathtaking is situated in Hainan -€“ the famous Sea Guanyin.

Another source of pride for the monastery is a majestic statue of Sakyamun, or simply The Buddha. The monument was created during the Ming Dynasty. It has impressive parameters - seven meters tall, weighing more than six tonnes. The lotus throne of the Sakyamun is covered with 9,999 carved Buddhas. The statue is very symbolic and represents purification. In general, the lotus has a very deep meaning in Chinese culture and Buddhism - it grows through mud and appears on the surface of the water clean and flawless. So, when walking around the monastery, take your time and pay special attention to all this detail - it can be quite exciting as everything has its special subtext.

BT 201603 08 Art leisure
The monastery also hosts the epic statue of the Future Buddha. It consists of figures of four Heavenly Kings with a figure of Buddha in the centre -€“ the symbol of good crops. Overall, the monastery houses hundreds of ancient Chinese statues made of iron, wood, bronze and stone in the Central Hall.

It's hard to believe, but the Dabei Monastery played an important role in establishing good political relations between China and India. Until 1956, it housed priceless treasure and a piece of the head bone relics of Xuanzang, a monk from the Tang Dynasty (618-907). In the middle of 20th century, the relic was sent to India to insure, and it started friendly relations between the two countries. Right now, the relic is safe at Patna Museum in India and believers in Tianjin use the monk's image to worship Buddha.

BT 201603 09 Art leisure dabei3Aside from religious monuments, Dabei has another very curious feature. It is the only monastery in Tianjin which provides vegetarian food. The reason is quite simple - in China, Korea and Vietnam, monks actually need to abstain from eating meat, but in many temples and monasteries traditions are more modern. Dabei provides its own food, prepared by famous Tianjin Dabei Buddhist Monastery Vegetarian Food Corporation -€“ a menu which includes soybean vegetarian dishes, Longevity Perch, multi-vitamin noodles, steamed buns and veggie dumplings.

China contains so many interesting and exciting customs, traditions and religious mysteries, that a lifetime wouldn't be enough time to explore each and every one of them! Maybe if you start tomorrow, there will still be a chance to get to know at least a drop!


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