Ep. 120: Tiantong Temple
Chinese seat of Japan's Soto Zen sect
The morning after my return from the island of Putuoshan, the people I was staying with hired a private car to take us toward central Ningbo. We turned south into some of Zhejiang's wild mountains to find Tiantong Si, the "Temple of the Heavenly Child."
Founded in the year 300, Tiantong is a huge complex, with dozens of ochre-colored plaster and red-painted wood buildings marching up the mountainside. It is also a major destination for pilgrims, especially those from Japan.
That's because around 1225, a Japanese monk named Dogen Zenji arrived here, and ended up studying with the great monk Rujing of the Caodong sect of Chan (Zen). Two and a half years later, Dogen returned to Japan and founded the Soto Zen sect ("Soto" is the Japanese pronunciation of Caodong), which today claims millions of followers in Japan and throughout the world.
Aside from the main compound, the temple has two tayuan, or "pagoda compounds," located on another part of the mountainside in lush bamboo forests. One of these evocative cemeteries contains the remains of Rujing himself. We had a hard time finding the compound, and ended up having our driver take us up to it in the car. (It was--unfortunately--locked, but we peeked through the gate.)
After lunch in a country diner, we pushed on to our next temple.
Until next time, may you and your loved ones and all sentient beings be well and happy.
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