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Zhaozhou Bailin Temple

Bailin Temple, located at the southeast corner of Zhaoxian county, Hebei province, was first built in the time of East Han Dynasty (approximately the 3rd century A.D.) and has a history of more than 1700 years today. In the early days of its history, it had been widely known as the Ancient Guan Yin Temple until Song Dynasty when it was renamed as Yong An Monastery. In Yuan Dynasty, the name of “Bailin Temple” (the Temple of Cypress Woods) first came into being in an imperial letter to the monastery, as there were lots of cypress trees growing vigorously in the courtyard of the temple at that time.

From the limited epigraphs remained today, we know that Bailin Temple had always been an important Buddhist center throughout the whole ancient history. A stone stele of Jin Dynasty recorded an activity in which over 3000 lay followers donated to build a great Buddha statue in the Temple. In the early years of Yuan Dynasty, three emperors had ever signed decrees to local regimes, ordering them to exempt taxes from the Temple so as to preserve this Buddhist Holy Land. The great Stupa of Master Zhaozhou, which is now still towering in the temple, was first built in Yuan Dynasty, with the approval and support from Emperor Wenzong. In Ming and Qing Dynasty, the government agency for administrating religious affaires in Zhaozhou Prefecture was set up in Bailin Temple and sometimes the Abbot of the Temple also acted as the director of the agency.

From time to time, Bailin Temple had trained generations of numerous eminent Zen masters. Although many centuries have passed, some of the great masters like Master Zhaozhou, Guiyun, Yuexi and Luyun of various times are still well known by modern practitioners. Among them, Master Zhaozhou was one of the greatest Zen masters in the history of Chinese Buddhism, whose teachings have benefited numerous followers of both ancient and modern times, from both the inland and the aboard.

Master Zhaozhou

The most fruitful contribution of Chinese Buddhism to the human society is embodied in Zen, the very essence of Chinese Buddhist tradition. The practice of Zen began to flourish in Tang Dynasty, when Zen”s sixth patriarch Master Huineng, despite his illiteracy, achieved profound realization and set up a very special way of teaching which was unconventionally dynamic and straightforward to the point of enlightenment. Master Zhaozhou was the fifth successor of Patriarch Huineng. He was ordained at his very early age and became enlightened in his youth when he was studying and practicing Zen under the guidance of Master Nanquan. After that, he spent all his time travelling from one place to another in search of spiritual teachers and friends until his age of 80 when he arrived at Bailin Temple and settled down there for the rest of his life. His profound realization and rich meditation experiences had brought out great fruition in the Dharma activities in his late years. Many practitioners of Zen tradition had achieved high level realization through his compassionate teachings. Many of his teachings and life-stories had become the most typical and effective practical guide for the later followers of Zen Tradition. Master Zhaozhou therefore was among the most eminent Zen teachers in the history of Chinese Buddhism. In 897 A.D., the great master passed away at his age of 120. Bailin Temple, as a Zen study center first established by Master Zhaozhou, has since become flourishing and been regarded as one of the most sacred holy sites of Zen Tradition over the centuries, and even until today.


In the recent history, confronted by many difficulties resulting from political and social adversities, Bailin Temple has ever experienced a period of decadency . When the Cultural Revolution was over and the Temple was reopened as a monastery in 1988, not a single hall or temple could be found on the ruined site, nor did a statue or scripture ever remain. Only the Stupa of Master Zhaozhou and a few cypress trees standing lonely on the ground might still remind people that this had once been a sacred Buddhist center in the history.

In 1988, the Venerable Master Jinghui became the Abbot of the Temple, who since then has worked devotedly and tirelessly to raise funds and organize the renovation program of the Temple. In 1992, the construction of the Hall of Light Lumination was completed. In the following years , a number of buildings were constructed one after another, which included the Main Gate, the Guan Yin Temple, the Bell Tower, the Meditation Hall, the Yunshui House and the Huixian House etc. After nearly 7 years of unremitting work, the previous dilapidated site has now been transformed into a sublime Buddhist center with beautiful, clean monastic environment and a pure, harmonious Sangha community, functioning as a pure land in this human world. In 1993, Hebei Zen Study Center was set up in the Temple. In 1998, Hebei Buddhist College also started its study and training programs here. In 1999, the construction of a group of monastic architectures highlighting the magnificent Ten-Thousand Buddha Hall were initiated, with a total investment of RMB 30 million yuan being involved. This project is expected to be accomplished in 2003. We welcome every kind support and contribution to this great renovation project from both home and aboard Any donation from you will be highly appreciated and well used.

Current Abbot

The renovation program has been carried out under the direct guidance of the current abbot of Bailin Temple, Ven. Master Jinghui, who is now also the vice chairman of the Chinese Buddhist Association and the chief editor of its monthly Journal “ The Sound of Dharma”. Ven. Master Jinghui was ordained at his very early age. When he was still a young novice monk, he had studied and practiced the teachings of Zen Tradition under the direct guidance of his guru, Ven. Abbot Xuyun, and was one of the closest disciples of this great Zen teacher. Having received the entire set of teachings from Abbot Xuyun, Master Jinghui became the succeeding lineage holder of both Linji Sect and Caodong Sect of Zen Tradition. As the chairmen of Hebei Buddhist Association, Master Jinghui is very busy almost everyday, but he always looks fresh and vigorous and acts with a calm and peaceful mind, genuinely demonstrating an example of Buddhisattva in reality. Since 1993, based on his profound meditation experiences and deep understandings of most urgent problems about modern people, the master has conducted many teachings on Zen”s Way of Life, a special spiritual therapy proposed for modern people on how to skillfully integrate the practice of Zen into the context of everyday life. In his introduction to Zen”s Way of Life, the master said, “To practice the Zen”s Way of Life is to apply the wisdom and the very essence of Zen in to our daily life and thereby to achieve the realization of its sublimes, spirituality and inner beauty in the process of everyday life. The purpose of presenting Zen”s Way of Life is to integrate the essential practice of Buddhism into Chinese cultural context, and thus present a dynamic spiritual path of Zen incorporated with the Chinese cultural tradition””. Practicing Zen in everyday life will help us solving many problems confronted in our daily life such as mental bewilderment, affliction and impediment, and thus lead us to a life guided by wisdom and endowed with real meaning. Under such a principle, Venerable Master Jinghui has given many instructions on how to actually practice Zen”s Way of Life. He has also summarized the essential meaning of Zen”s Way of Life as “Life bound to enlightenment, Life with devotion”. In recent years, the special teaching of Zen”s Way of Life has drawn widely social concern, and has been highly praised by people both in and outside the Buddhist community.

Main Dharma Activities

While the renovation works are being carried out, Dharma ceremonies and meditation courses opened to everyone have been arranged regularly throughout the year. From the 9th to the 15th in January (of Chinese lunar calendar, hereinafter), a seven-day retreat emphasizing the Purfication Practice of Medicine Buddha is usually arranged. From the 4th to the 7th in April, Dharma ceremony for granting Buddhisattva Vows to lay practitioners is often held. From the 9th to the 15th in July, a special course consisting of both Dharma teachings and meditation sessions is planned, mainly for practitioners of the Pure-land Sect. While from the 15th of December to the 7th of January, a 21-day meditation retreat is scheduled for more advanced practitioners. In addition, there are some special Dharma festivals and celebrations on the birthdays of Buddhas and Buddisattvas. The Zen”s Way of Life Summer Camp held in every mid-July is a special event for the Sangha of the Temple as it is designed specially for young people to develop understanding into Dharma. During this seven-day summer camp period, every participant will do meditation and prayer every morning and night, listen to Dharma teachings, discuss with counterparts and emulate the life of a Zen master. Many participants have developed their faith in Three Jewels and have been greatly inspired and moved by this pure, blissful lifestyle.

Our Spiritual Path

“Life bound to enlightenment, Life with devotion” is the essential message of our teaching. “Practice right now, embody faith in everyday life, integrate spiritual path into worldly context and devote the life to the welfare of all ”is, the major guideline directing most of our daily practices. “Everybody understands and participates, everybody benefits and shares” is the principle that guides our every activity in revitalizing the Dharma center and arranging day-to-day monastic works. Under such a principle, Bailin Temple and all its members are now working zealously to benefit living beings through disseminating Buddha”s pure teachings.

Address: No.23 East Shita Road, Zhao County, Hebei Province, China

Post code: 051530

[ Source:Admin - 17 March 2010 ]

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