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Fengguo Si(奉國寺) Wang, Xiaoyang; Huang, Chenxi; Wu, Sijia; Carlton, Kelly; Zhang, Yuanjing


“Revering the State Temple” (Fengguosi 奉國寺), colloquially known as “Great Buddha Temple” (Dafosi 大佛寺), is located in the inner city of Yi County (義縣). It began to be constructed during the 9th year (1020) of Kaitai (開泰) of the Liao (907–1125). At first named “Complete Prosperity Temple” (Xianxisi 咸熙寺), it was later changed to “Revering the State Temple”. It is said that Liao Shengzong (遼圣宗, r. 982–1031), whose full name is Yelü longxu (耶律隆緒), built the imperial temple in the hometown of his mother, Dowager Empress Xiao 蕭太后. The following structures are aligned along the central axis of Fengguo Temple: the main gate (lit. mountain gate; shanmen 山門), a memorial archway (paifang 牌坊), Hall of the Heavenly Kings (Tianwang dian 天王殿), and the Mahāvīra Hall (lit. Hall of the Great Hero; Daxiong dian 大雄殿). Among them, the entrance consists of an outer main gate (newly built), historic ruins of the Liao dynasty main gate, and the inner main gate. There are primarily modern gardens and structures. On the eastern side, the “Chinese Name Tablets Exhibition Room” preserves three ancient tablets from Mahāvīra Hall, which were established in the fifth year (1740) of Qianlong (r. 1736–1795). The inner main gate bears the inscription, “Dafosi 大佛寺” (Great Buddha Temple). Behind the inner main gate, there is a Qing dynasty memorial archway, which was established to honor Princess Wenzhuang (溫莊), the daughter of Huang Taiji (皇太極, r. 1626–1636). Behind the memorial archway is the Hall of Heavenly Kings. Inside the hall, on the left and right, are the Buddhist Four Heavenly Kings. Maitreya Buddha (彌勒佛) is enshrined in the middle of the hall. Skanda Bodhisattva (韋陀菩薩) is situated behind Maitreya Buddha. Mahāvīra Hall, the main building of Fengguo Temple, is well preserved. It is 55 meters long, 33 meters wide, and 22 meters tall. With an area of more than 1800 square meters, it is the largest ancient Chinese wooden building surviving today. The three horizontal tablets hanging on the front side of the hall are modern replicas. The middle tablet reads “Daxiong dian 大雄殿” (3.1 meters tall, 1.52 meters wide). The tablets on the east and west sides read “Falun tiandi 法輪天地” (Universe of the Wheel of the Dharma) and “Zirun shanhe 滋潤山河” (Nourishing Mountains and Rivers), respectively (both 2.8 meters tall, 1.78 meters wide). The hall enshrines seven seated Buddha images; the main statue is more than nine meters tall. The images have been well preserved for one thousand years. Two flanking-attendant bodhisattvas stand in front of each Buddha image. Upon the rafters of the hall, there are 42 colored drawings of flying attendants dating to the Liao dynasty. Murals from the Yuan and Ming are painted upon the four inner walls, including the patriarch Buddha (i.e., Śākyamuni), bodhisattvas, Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin 觀音), and arhats (luohan 羅漢); the murals are still visible today. Among them, the eighteen arhats upon the hall’s inner south wall were taken off and placed upon wooden boards, which were moved behind the statues of the seven Buddhas. There is a statue of a reclining male Avalokiteśvara enshrined at the back of Mahāvīra Hall. Within the hall, there are dozens of Jin, Yuan, Ming, and Qing stone steles. To the west of Mahāvīra Hall, there is a Hall of the Three Sages (Sansheng dian 三聖殿) and a Hall of the Arhats (Luohan tang 羅漢堂). In front of the Hall of the Three Sages, there is a Jin dynasty Buddhist stone pillar and Qikong stele. In front of the Hall of the Arhats, there are various ancient stone steles. To the east of Mahāvīra Hall, there is a Hall of the God of Wealth (Caishen dian 財神殿) and a Bodhisattva Hall (Pusa dian 菩薩殿).

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