Rich Buddhist Culture of Songshan
Songshan is well known for its rich Buddhist culture. Fawangsi temple, built in Eastern Han Dynasty, is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in China. It was built only three later younger than Baimasi temple of Luoyang and 420 years earlier than Shaolin temple. According to records of Songshan Stories, Baimasi was originally used to received guests; hence Fawangsi temple could be called as the earliest Buddhist temple in China.
Shaolin temple was built by Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei Dynasty and Indian monk Ba Tuo had practiced Buddhism in Shaolin temple. As Indian eminent monk Bodhi Dharma was the first person to practice Zen Buddhism in Shaolin temple, Zen had later developed as an important school of Buddhism. Hence, Shaolin temple is called father of Zen Buddhism. Other famous Buddhist temples include Huishansi temple, Songyuansi temple, Yongtaisi temple and Jingliangsi temple. Buddhist temple of Songshan has inherited and passed down traditions of Buddhism. Moreover, it has enriched culture, especially Buddhist culture profoundly, and become a valuable cultural treasure.
The most significant element of Buddhism is Buddhist pagoda group which are numerous in quantity, diverse in shape and ancient in history. Songyuansi pagoda is the existing oldest brick pagoda in China. The pagoda over 40m in height has dodecagonal planes and is the only of its kind among famous Buddhist temples in China. Sputa of Fawangsi temple, built in Sui Dynasty and approximately 40 m in height is comprised of 15 floors and has the unique shape of paracurve and square. Buddhist pagoda in Yongtaisi temple, built in Tang Dynasty is a brick pagoda having square eaves at the four edges. Jingcang pagoda of Huishansi temple, built in Tang Dynasty, is the oldest existing brick pagoda in China. Shaolin temple has accommodated over 200 pagodas of Tang, Song, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. Songshan pagodas are great treasures for studying brick structure and sculpture techniques in ancient China.
The masterpieces of tablet inscriptions, calligraphy and painting include the tablet of Liubeisi temple inscribed in Nortern Wei Dynasty. In front and at the back of the tablet stand sculptures of 12 warriors and Buddha. The sculptures are elegantly made and the calligraphy is powerful and handsomely written. Songyangsi temple tablet of Huishansi temple was sculpted in Eastern Wei Dynasty. The front of the tablet has sculptures of dragon and Buddha and the sculptures are made in beautiful elegant lines and the design is concise and neat, becoming a rare treasure of ancient tablet
sculptures. In addition, Shaolin temple has accommodated a great many masterpiece tablets including Queen’s Poem tablet of Tang Dynasty, Buddha Linyun’s Inscriptions on pagoda, and Dharma Practicing Zen Meditation.