Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fo Guang Si 佛光寺 (1)

Most of Chinese wood structures remained are from Ming-Qing period (14th to 19th centuries). Wood structures simply cannot endure the inevitable destruction of war, fire, lightening, weathering, and time. We recently visited a few places in ShanXi province. It is quite gratifying to see some of the earlier wood structures that survived relatively intact, some of them more than 1000 year old. They are very elegant and beautiful. By comparing buildings of different periods, we can also learn the evolution of aesthetics and design/construction method. We like to share with you what we have learned in the following few blogs.

Historical Account:
There are only four Tang wooden structures left in China. The Great Eastern Hall of Fo-Guang Temple is one of them, and perhaps the most significant one. It was ignored and forgotten many years, and was re-discovered by the architect Liang Si Cheng, son of the famous cultural figure of Liang Chi Chao, in 1937. Fo Guang Temple was rebuilt in 857AD during Tang Dynasty, soon after the destruction of the original 5th century temple during the ban on Buddhism in 845AD by the previous Tang ruler. This was one of the several ban-and-resurrection of Buddhism in Chinese history. The worship was banned and temples destroyed by the ruler of North Wei in 444AD, only to be resurrected by his son as his successor. We will touch upon this subject again when we talk about the two grottos we visited. This pattern seems to have a reincarnation in recent history following the ban of any religion during Mao’s rule in 1950s and 1960s. Now Chinese authority has discovered the value of these ancient sites, at least for attracting tourists, and is making a big effort to preserve them. It seems history just keeps repeating itself.

The main hall, the Great Eastern Hall, can be seen perching high above the stone built base in the second picture. We will go into the detail description of these buildings in this series latter.

大部分留下來的中國木造建築, 都是明清時期留下來的。 木構造無法在戰火,天災,時間的洗禮下存息。 這次旅遊, 在山西終於看到了一些僅存的唐,遼金,和宋代木造建築。 我們感覺到一派高貴美感的震撼力。 同時看到不同時期的建築, 也體會到美學上和建築構造的演變。 以下的一系列只是將我們看到,學到的和大家共賞。

唐以前的木造建築已經都不存在了。 1930年代, 梁思成 (梁啟超兒子)和他的夫人極盡心力地尋找古建築。 他們發現了佛光寺的東大殿是唐朝建築。 該寺原建於第五世紀的北魏, 毀於唐武帝會昌滅佛, 公元847年唐宣宗時重建。 現僅存東大殿。這只是歷史上很多佛教滅/复事件的一次。 在北魏時已經來過一次,我們在以後談論雲岡,龍門兩個石窟時再來談。 不過近代歷史上,50 到60 年代毛澤東的禁止宗教, 和現在以佛教賺錢, 似乎也在重演歷史。

在第二圖裡, 佛光寺的主殿, 東大殿,高踞在石造的台基上。 以下的系列, 我們將一一介紹。

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