Jinci Temple

'Jinci', the ancient Buddhist temple, is located at the source of the Jin River by Xuanweng Mountain 25km southwest of Taiyuan City, Shanxi Province.

The Jinci Temple was first built before the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) to memorize Shu Yu, the second son of King Wu of the Zhou Dynasty (11th century - 256 BC). After defeating the Shang Dynasty (17th century - 11th century BC), King Wu offered official posts to his followers and Shu Yu was assigned the post in Tang area, and he changed title of his fiefdom to Jin because of the Jinshui River. His offspring named the Jinci Temple for the same reason.

The Jinci Temple experienced several repairs and expansions: being enlarged in the Tianbao reign of the Northern and Southern Dynasties (386-581); being expanded in the 20th year (646) of the Zhenyuan reign of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) when Emperor Taizong (Li Shimin) visited here and wrote inscriptions and preface for the Jinci Temple; being added a huge hall called the Shengmu Hall for Shu Yu's mother, Yi Jiang in the Tiansheng reign (1023-1032) of the Song Dynasty.

The main buildings are distributed along the central axis from east to west. They are the Shuijing Platform, the Huixian Bridge, the Jinren Platform, the Duiyue Hall, the Bell and Drum Towers, the Xian Hall, the Yuzhao Feiliang (Fish Pond and Flying Girder) Hall and the Shengmu (Goddess Mother) Hall. North to them are the Shuyu Temple, the Wutianshen Temple and the Wenchang Hall; south to them are the Shuimu Hall, the Nanlao Spring Pavilion and the Sheli Shengsheng Tower. All the buildings are in compact and strict structures of a temple in a sense, but it is also an imperial garden from another perspective. The cypresses grown in the Zhou Dynasty and pagoda trees of the Sui Dynasty (581-617) are still vigorous, lush and green. Despite the trials and hardships of thousands of years, their old branches form a crisscross network and are reputed with the restless the Nanlao Spring, wonderful portraits of the maids in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) as three matchless works in the Jinci Temple.

The Shuijing Platform was first built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) as the stage for dramas. The front part is single-eaved round ridge roof while the back part is double-eaved gable and hip roof. The facade is a spacious stage, while other three sides are bright corridors. This kind of style is rather unconventional.

The Jinren Platform, also called the Lotus Platform in the past, has another name of the Tie Taiwei (iron figures of the official) because of the four iron figures on each corner of the platform. The plane of the platform is a square with handrails around it and a 4-meter high colored glaze furnace for burning silks standing in the center. The best one of the four is a 2-meter-tall iron figures in the southwest corner. The epigraph on his chest, which reads: cast in the 4th year (1097) of the Shaosheng reign of the Northern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), is not rusted and shining as ever, though it had exercised more than 800 years of trials and hardships. According to The History of Taiyuan County, the temple is the source of the Jinren River, so iron figures were placed here to avoid floods.

The Xian (worship) Hall was first built in the 8th year (1168) of the Dading reign of the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234). It was originally built to worship the Shengmu (Goddess Mother) and display sacrificial offerings. It is 3-bay wide and 2-bay long, single-eaved gable and hip roof with a carved glaze ridge and simple wooden square blocks inserted between the top of a column and a crossbeam. There are doors in the middle of the front room and back room; other rooms are installed with railings on the walls like a pavilion. In 1995, the Xian Hall was rebuilt with the same material and kept the original style. It retained the architectural characteristics of the Jin Dynasty and is the treasure of China's ancient buildings.

The Yuzhao (fish pond) is a squared pool, and it is the second source of the Jin River. There is a bridge called Feiliang (flying girder) across it. The bridge was built in the Northern Song Dynasty, and its way of construction is very interesting. The main structures are the 34 small octagonal stone poles in the pond; wooden square blocks inserted between the top of columns and crossbeams support the cross-like surface of the bridge; flat ends extending to east and west connect the Shengmu Hall and the Xian Hall while ends in the south and north head to the bank. The bridge is enclosed with balustrades on both sides. The whole building looks just like a huge bird ready to fly, hence the name Feiliang (flying girder).

The Shengmu Hall was built in the Tiansheng reign of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), splendid and grand, being the most ancient building in the Jinci Temple. It is 19 meters high, has a double-eaved gable and hip roof, and is seven-bay wide and six-bay long. It has yellow and green glazed edges, carved animals with flowers and surrounding corridor. Wood pillars in the front corridor are carved with eight coiling dragons. The inner part is enlarged by way of reducing pillars in it. The Shengmu Hall is a large-scale building of the Song style. There are 43 painted statues of the Song Dynasty in the hall with the main statue of Shengmu sitting straightly in the wood niche and other 42 attendants standing on both sides of the niche. Shengmu is dressed in a chaplet and official robes, decorous in appearance; while the attendants do different things: some serve meals and take care of daily life; some are responsible for combing, cleaning and sweeping. These statues are the concrete mirrors of the life in court. They are vivid and expressive. All the statues are naturally carved with superb techniques, and are refined works of Chinese painted carvings of the Song Dynasty.

South to the Shengmu Hall is the Nanlao Spring Pavilion built in the Tianbao reign (550-559) of the Northern Song Dynasty. The pavilion is octagonal with a pyramidal roof. Water in the Nanlao Spring, the main source of the Jin River, runs from the stone caves under the pavilion year after year. Thus, someone in the Northern Song Dynasty picked a beautiful verse of Yongxi Nanlao (never get old) from The Book of Odes-The Odes of Lu Kingdom to name this spring as Nanlao Spring. The spring water is sparkling and crystal-clear with perennial duckweeds. Poets in all dynasties would admire and praise the spring water. Li Bai, the famous poet of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), once wrote such beautiful verses: Water in the Jin River is just like jasper; Breeze stirs the river, making the waves like dragon scales and revealing the green duckweed. At the source of the Jin River, there is a Shuimu (a water goddess) building, constructed in the 42nd year (1563) of the Jiajing reign in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It is five-bay wide and has two storeys with statues of seated Shuimu and her attendants inside. These statues are elegant and unconventional; they are rare works of painted statues in the Song Dynasty.

The famous tablet with Inscription and Preface for The Jinci Temple, composed and written by Li Shimin, the first emperor of the Tang Dynasty, in the 20th year (646) of the Zhenguan reign, is towering in the Zhenguan Baohan Pavilion. In the late years of the Song Dynasty, the father and son, Li Yuan and Li Shimin, waged a war across the Central Plains and set up the regime of the Tang Dynasty. After that, they came here to thank the blessing of Shuyu. They built this tablet to praise the system of the Zhou Dynasty and Shuyu's constructive scheme for a country as well, to eulogize the cultural achievement and military accomplishment, in view of consolidating their own power.

The tablet is 1.95 meters high and 1.2 meters wide, built on a squared base. At the top is the headline lunar January 26 in the second year of the Zhenguan reign in lean type. There are 1,203 characters in cursive script on the tablet, all vivacious, acute, strong and powerful, quite like the calligraphy of Wang Youjun. This first emperor of the Tang Dynasty appreciated the calligraphy of Wang Xizhi very much. Therefore, the influence of Sage of Calligraphy (referring to Wang Xizhi) can be sensed between the lines. This compact inscription is a model of cursive script, ranking only next to the famous Orchid Pavilion Preface of Wang Xizhi.

The Shuyu Temple in the northern part includes two yards: the front yard and the back yard. The front yard is enclosed by a corridor, while the back yard has three additional halls on both sides. The Shuyu Temple in due north direction is 5-bay wide and 4-bay long. The statue of Shuyu is placed in the niche in the center of the hall; 12 statues from elsewhere are along two sides, with flute, pipa (a plucked string instrument), three-string and other musical instruments in hand. They are valuable data for study on Chinese musical instruments and the history of Chinese music.