Having a weekend free, I took a ride with my friends to Tong’an District outside Xiamen Island. Our destination is Fantian Temple (also known as Brahma Temple), an ancient temple in southern Fujian. Fantian Temple is one of the most ancient Buddhism Temples in Fujian. It was initially build in 581 A.D. of Sui Dynast but was almost ruined in fires set by warlords in the Republic of China Period. The grand Fantian Temple you see now was rebuilt in September 1997. It is a temple of high repute among folks in Southern Fujian. Especially, it is told that some eminent monks brought up there are good at telling a person’s destiny by feeling his bones, attracting numerous high officials to visit them for advices or directions. Of course, it is all based upon folklore, and it is up to you to believe in it or not.
Fantian Temple is situated to the northeast of Tong’an, neighboring Fujian Tong An No.1 Middle School which for this reason is blessed by the God of Literature worshiped in Kuixing Hall. The God of Literature is also the God of wisdom worshiped by us students. No wonder that Fujian Tong An No.1 Middle School has always outperformed its counterparts in Xiamen in Chinese college entrance examination scores. Though I have been freed from examination stress, I still prayed to the God of Literature for improving my literary grace so as to write more fascinating travel notes.
What is interesting is that Fantian Temple embodies some other unique features besides Kuixing Hall. For example, the first hall you’ll see after walking through the mountain gage is the Hall of Vajras other than the Hall of Heavenly Kings typically found in temples. You’ll see two vajras stepping on goblins erected here, one on the left and the other on the right. The vajras originated from Buddhism figures but were later converged with Chinese traditional culture after being introduced to China, with their identities altered and even names changed to “Un” and “Ah” respectively, namely the Two Ferocious Gigantic Guardians.
In the middle of the Hall of Vajras erects the Ambassador Buddha, also Amitabha in the Western Pure Land. He sits upright in the middle to guide and escort all creatures to enter the hall. By the way, Fantian Temple is open to the public for free. Even two cats without bringing tickets can lie on the glazed tiles in total comfort, with sunlight filtering down onto them. What’s more, the temple is equipped with two large water dispensers, along with two large baskets containing clean porcelain bowls for us tourists to drink water for free. I think nowadays, faith is the only weapon to conquer material desire.
After walking out of the Hall of Heavenly Kings, you’ll see the renovated Mahavira Hall. The two halls are separated by unique East and West Chambers in the courtyard. Besides Kuixing Hall, there are also the Hall of Buddha Jih, the Hall of Lord Guan and the Hall of Three Patriarches. The Hall of Buddha Jih is occasionally found in Chinese temples, but the Hall of Lord Guan and the Hall of Three Patriarches are rarely seen. Most temples have a Samgharama Hall, but Fantian Temple builds a Hall of Lord Guan besides the Samgharama Hall. I always mistakenly thought of Samgharama as Lord Guan. More extraordinary still, here you’ll see a Hall of Three Patriarches originated from Taoism. With the three Patriarches, Buddhas and the God of Literature gathering together here, Fantian Temple seems to be a harmonious land blending Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism.
Fantian Temple is so peculiar and unique in layout that I think it cannot be simply identify as a building pertaining to a particular school of Buddhism. And it is worth a visit.