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Nantai Temple

Nantai Temple is situated on Nanyue Mountain, Hengyang City, Hunan Province, and is one of famous temples of Buddhism's Chan Sect (Zen). In 1983, Nantai Temple was designated one of national key temples in the areas of the Han nationality.

Nantai Temple was built during the Tianjian reign of the Liang Dynasty (502-520), originally as the place where Haiyin, an accomplished monk, cultivated himself according to Buddhist doctrines. There stands a big stone on the cliff of Nanshan Mountain behind the temple. It is said that Haiyin sat in meditation and chanted scriptures hereon; therefore, this temple is known as Nantai (Nanshan Mountain Stone) Temple. Afterwards, the temple was abandoned several times, and was rehabilitated in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), which established Nantai Temple's existing scale.

Nantai Temple sits back to north and faces to the south with a brick-timber structure as well as a construction area of 9,226 square meters. On its medial axis stand Guan Emperor Hall, Main Hall, Abbot's Room, etc. A stele inscribed with Ancient Nantai Temple hung on the Mountain Gate, and the Statue of Maitreya Buddha is enshrined in the Main Hall.

Nantai Temple has a big fame, and is worshiped by home and overseas Buddhists because it is not only a famous temple of the Six Dynasties with a long glorious history, but also has produced a prestigious monk named Shitou Xiqian during the Five Dynasties after the end of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). He was a very important person of Qingyuan Faction, one of two major factions of the southern Zen school. In the Tang Dynasty, Xiqian went to Hengshan Mountain, the southern one of China's Five Famous Mountains, and was initiated into monkhood on a stone east of Nantai Temple; therefore, he was known as Shitou (Stone) Monk. After Shitou Xiqian passed away, his remains were buried under Nantai Temple. His tomb is the only Tang Dynasty tomb extant on Hengshan Mountain.

Nantai Temple is also the birthplace of Caodong Sect in Japan. In 1903 (during the Guangxu reign of the Qing Dynasty), a Japanese accomplished monk named Meixiao, leading scores of Japanese Buddhists, took a special trip to Nantai Temple to seek Buddhist doctrines. When seeing that Nantai Temple was being rehabilitated, he promised to present a Tripitaka thereto. In the fourth year after he came back to Japan, he by himself, leading scores of Japanese Buddhists, escorted Tripitaka to Nantai Temple. Since then, Buddhists in Japan have sent delegations to Nantai Temple from time to time to worship.

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