In the center of Kaifeng,there sits a complex of magnificant ancient buildings with wing halls flanking,it is right the Grand Xiangguo Monastery,one of the top ten monasteries in China.Throngs of people from all corners at home or out of the country come here for a visit because there are so many mysterious stories and folk legends exaggerated by novels or operas concerned with it through ages.
Built in the sixth year of the rein of the Tianbao in the Northern Qi Dynasty. Grand Xiangguo Monastery used to be one of the famous center of Buddhism in ancient China with its original name—Jian’guo Monastery, was first built in the residence of Prince Wuji of Wei state,also called Xinlingjun,one of the four famous childes during the Warring States. It was unfortunately destroyed in a war and never rebuilt until the year 701A.D,when a famous monk Huiyun came to Kaifeng and successfully collected a great deal of donations for the reconstruction of monastery on the reasonable excuse that the original site of the monastery was full of Buddhist nimbus and that he met the Maitreya Buddha in his dream,with those donations,the monastery was rebuilt and a new bronze of Maitreya Buddha of six-meter high was enshrined in the Maitreya Hall,in order to commemorate and celebrate Emperor Lidan’s Ascending the throne from the position of”Xiangguo”(the prime minister) ,the new Emperor of Tang Dynasty renamed the monastery”Xiangguo” instead of”Jianguo”，hence,the name has been used 1300 years.
The first building of monaresty is its south gate,four Chinese characters of monarestry’s name was written by Zhaopuchu,the previous chairman of Chinese Buddhism Association are above the arched gate.Entering the gate, two similar symmetrical buildings standing on both sides will come into your sight,they are the bell tower and drug tower,which used to be as the clock to announce time in the ancient. The jow of the bell could spread so far that the whole city is filled with its pleasant sound.
The Maitreya Buddha Hall is the first hall and the main hall,stepping in it,the first impression is the mercy smiling Budfha from ear to ear, he is sitting on the lotus pedestal cross-legged with his big belly exposed.It is said that the smiling Buddha is the incarnation of Maitreya Buddha,who is regarded as the Buddha for the future,the successor Buddha of Sakyamuni,he will control the world in over two hundred million years.On both sides of the shrine,there is a pair of vertical tablets says:”the smiling face is always laughing at ridiculous persons in the world,the big belly can bear all unbearable things under heaven.” Besides, there are four heavenly kings standing seperatly on both sides of the hall,each holding a magic weapon in his hand,it was said that they are guards of the Buddha hall, there is another statue of Skanda(or Weituo known in China) standing at the back of Maitreya Buddha facing the Hall of Mahavira(also called the great hero), he is the guard of Buddha Dharma,it was said that some demons stole Sakyamuni’s sarira,Skanda rushed after demons and fought against them bravely,at last ,the lost sarira was taken back. From then on,the sarira of Sakyamuni was under his protection.
Stepping out of the Maitreya Hall,you can see a great hall named”Mahavira Hall”,where Sakyamuni is being worshipped.It is about 13 meters high,around it is marble fence, it is said that this is the first Buddhist Hall in central China,there are three statues of Buddha,the central one is Buddha Sakyamuni,who lives in the present world. On his left is Buddha Pharmacist Budfha, who lives in the easten glazed world,whose duty is to cure all patients in the world.On the right sits Buddha Amitabha,the ruler of the Western Paradise.The three Buddhas are signs of three different worlds.
The third one is the Hall of Arhats.As it is shaped in octagon with a green glazed roof,it is also called”Octagonal Glazed Hall”.Being really a unique ancient architecture,it appears all rounding with an octagonal corridor going around and an octagonal pavilion in the centre, along the corridor,500 arhats in various forms and postures and expressions are placed around a big wooden statue,which is called” Avalokiteshvara or Goddess of mercy with over One Thousand Hands and Eyes,” it is a four-faced and four-bodies sculpture measuring 6.6 meters in height,it is made from a trunk of gingko tree by a craftsman of Qing Dynasty.It has six big hands and over 200 small hands on each side with an eye in each hand,altogether 1048 hands and eyes,hence named”Goddess of Mercy with Thousand Hands and Thousand Eyes”.Here is a story about it:Once upon a time,there was a king who was seriously sick,while the enemy state was taking advantage to attack his country,so the king and his people were very anxious,a doctor happen to pass by and was asked to cure the king,after examination,doctor said there was no medicine for king’s disease but a kind of special pill made of a hand and an eye of his kinsman.The king had only three daughters so called them in and told them the doctor’s words.The eldest daughter said:”I have just given birth to my baby, if I lose one hand and one eye,who would care my baby？” The second daughter said:”I am newly married, if I have only one hand and one eye,how could I stay with my honey husband”.At this key moment,his youngest daughter said she was still young and had nothing worried about,she was pleased to help her father,she cut down one of her arms and gouged one of her eyes without hesitation,the king thus was cured and has won many wars but her youngest daughter lost an arm and an eye.The behavior of young girl was widely known and praised not only by people,but also by Buddha,who was greatly moved by the kind girl and said:”I would return both arm and eye to her,and build a statue of her body to let people follow and worship.”And later Buddha named the girl”Goddess of mercy with both hands and both eyes” so that she could help more people,and ordered to make the statue of her with both hands and both eyes,means”perfect hands and eyes”,their prounciation happens to be similiar to”hundreds of hands and eyes”.
The last architecture is a two-storey building,called”the Scripture-keeping Tower”,for it is used to store Buddhist scriptures in ancient time.And today,a fine jade-carved statue of Sakyamuni is also worshipped in the ground hall of the building.It was donated by an overseas Chinese ,a Buddhist from Burma.
To the west of Scripture-keeping Tower,is a wing hall,where a bronze statue of Konghai,a Japanese monk is worshipped.He was born in 744 (in Tang Dynasty)and learned Buddhism over 10 years both in Xi’an and Kaifeng.To commemorate him,some Japanese donated statue to Grand Xiangguo Monastery,which has been regarded as the mark of friendship between China and Japan.
Today,the Grand Xiangguo Monastery has met a new prosperous time in its history.More and more people all over the world come to this old and wel-known monastery,not only for visiting,praying,but also for its profound culture and long histoty.