Yǒngānsì Shānxī

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Wow!! The Yongansi is a gem! This powerfull, graceful temple, constructed in the Jin Dynasty 1115-1234, is decorated with spectacular, beautifully executed Yuan Dynasty murals. It sits in the middle of a slum...mud huts, rutted and boggy dirt roads...in the small town of 渾源城 Hunyuancheng in northern Shanxi...a twenty minute drive from the crowded, more famous tourist temple, the 懸空寺 Xuankongsi, the Hanging Temple.

It seems very few people visit here. When I arrived there was one scholar on duty who graciously opened the two massive halls, showed me around, and allowed me to view, but not photograph (unfortunately!!) the striking murals.

The interior front wall and the two side walls are covered with Daoist paintings of saints and gods, lined up in formations. But it is the rear wall that shines out above anything we have seen. On the left and on the right are five powerful paintings at least 5 meters tall of Bhodisattvas and Buddhas mounted on their steeds..lions, elephants and oxen (must be Laozu enjoying an outing with his Buddhist friends?) like Buddhist cowboys. As you stand before them they seem to be riding out of the mural toward you and I felt as if I might be trampled.

I was told the murals were painted in the Yuan Dynasty (those Mongols did some wonderful things for China!).

The murals are so overpowering that one almost overlooks the great architecture of the halls and the intricate and yet powerful tile work on the roof ridges.

I would return anytime to Shanxi just to view these paintings again. Unfortunately it seems they have yet to be published so we can only relate what were grateful to see.

We can find no reference to this temple in the 佛光大辭典. Perhaps its original name was different? If anyone out there has any background information on this temple please do let us know!

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