Tucked away among winding old streets and high buildings, the Temple of Six Banyan Trees is one of the four important Buddhist temple complexes in Guangzhou. First built in 537 it was rebuilt many times and was known by several other names. Most of the existing buildings date from the 11th century. The story goes that Su Dongpo a great author of the Song Dynasty gave the temple its current name. This is a Zen Buddhist place of worship and the community of monks who live here minister to the religious needs of the devotees and maintain the temple premises.
The temple complex comprises of several ancient buildings such as the hall dedicated to Maitreya Buddha at the entrance, the hall with a statue of general Weituo said to have returned to its rightful place the Buddhist relics stolen from the temple, the resplendent Mahavira hall with three of the largest and oldest copper Buddha statues in the province depicting Sakyamuni, Amitabha and the apothecary Buddha.
However the most prominent feature is the 187 foot octagon shaped pagoda, the tallest in the city. Interestingly the pagoda with doorways and encircling balconies at each level appears to be nine stories high from the outside but apparently it has 17 stories when viewed from inside. Hundreds of Buddha statues line the interior walls of the pagoda. It has also been called the flower pagoda due to its shape. Although visitors were allowed inside the pagoda at one time it is not accessible now.
The temple is a popular place of worship and is crowded with devotees during the Spring Festival and the Lantern Festival when they come here to seek blessings for the coming year. Its well maintained beautiful surroundings are a peaceful place that people can visit to experience tranquillity. Amulets and other religious trinkets sold here make good souvenirs. The banyan trees after which the temple is named are still here.
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