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Donglin Monastery

Donglin Temple
Donglin Temple

Donglin Monastery (East Forest Monastery) is seated at the northwestern foot of Mt. Lushan, about 16 km (10 miles) from Jiujiang City, Jiangxi Province. It was initially built in 384 A.D. in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420) and developed in popularity through the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Later it suffered a lot of damage and has been renovated in recent years. Now, it receives a great many Buddhist disciples and tourists every day.

The monastery was built by Huiyuan, a famous monk of his time, who was also the originator of the Pure Land Sect of Buddhism (also named Lotus Sect). In the past centuries, the Pure Land Sect was widely spread by Huiyuan’s followers. Some of its doctrines were even spread to Japan. Now in China, among the several Buddhists sects, the Pure Land Sect is worshipped by 80% of total Buddhist disciples. With the spread of the Pure Land Sect doctrines, the importance of Donglin Monastery has also grown.

Donglin Temple
Donglin Temple

The main halls of most Buddhist temples and monasteries are named Mahavira Hall, showing respect to the Great Buddha. Nevertheless, the main hall in this monastery is called ‘Shenyun Hall’ which means a hall bestowed by the Buddha. It was said that when Huiyuan arrived at the foot of Mt. Lushan, he didn’t believe it was good to build a temple in the forest. One night in a dream, he was instructed by the Great Buddha and decided that it was in fact the right place. That night a violent wind rose and pulled up the trees. Thus not only a piece of land but also the wood needed was ready for the temple. To show thanks Huiyuan dedicated the name of the hall in honor of the Buddha.

Donglin Monastery is a place of stories. There are also stories about other structures in the temple, such as Sanxiao Hall. Even the springs behind the main hall and the stream in front of the temple gate have marvelous stories.

Tourists have the chance to share vegetarian food with monks in the temple. Entering the dining hall, men sit in lines on the right side and women on the left. The monks stand in two lines reciting the Buddhist scriptures, kowtowing toward the Buddha and playing religious music. Tourists must not make any noise when eating. If they want more food, they can draw circles in their bowl with their chopsticks and the monks will help them. When the dinner is finished, monks will chant scriptures again to request the Buddha bless the tourists. The entire process is sacred and solemn and provides tourists with a sense of the culture of the Buddhist religion.

Source: Travel china guide

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