Nanputuoshan 南普陀山 backs up against the protective flanks of the Five Old Mountains 五老峰. The name of this jumble of rocky peaks in the outskirts of Xiamen surely relates to the larger and older Putuoshan 南普陀山, the island temple complex off the coast of Ningbo, Zhejiang. And the name 五老峰|
surely relates to the peaks of the same name on Lushan.
The temple is large and very active with over a hundred monks in residence. It seems to be predominently a Jingci Sect temple, but sects in China have very little meaning. One of the most imposing buildings is a multistoried Meditation Hall 禅堂 to the left of the main temple. On the roof of the main gate to the temple are two microcosmic Doist worlds, with the goddess Mazu at the top riding on a white crane. Trying to separate Buddhism and Daoism in China is like trying to separate the ingredients of a potage soup once it is made. Call it what you will, it is unabashedly a Chinese religion.
Fortunately we entered the temple through a side entrance in front of the Meditationa Hall and climbed up the mountain exploring the jumble of massive boulder strewn slopes and the countless caves that in the past have been bricked in and provided with stone benches. The paths are well tred so perhaps these caves are still used for meditation. Several pavillions dot the mountain providing views of the temple nestled below.
Decending the mountain we arrived at a platform surrounded by huge boulders, most of them carved with characters. A three meter tall character 佛 Fo, Buddha, carved into a six meter tall rock face, is gold plated and shines in the morning sun. Below and to the right are two pagodas of two departed monks and behind them moulded in concrete are two huge lions roaring out the Buddha's message while simultaniously playing with the jeweled ball of wisdom. Serious and playful at the same time, again the essence of Chinese religion.
Lest one think this is not a serious religion one only needs to watch the pilgrims bow and bow again, dropping the Yin Yang magatama to the ground and studying the signs of their future in the odd or even fall of these Chinese dice.
The temple bell rings for the noontime meal. A short fifteen minutes later a loud chanting reverberates throgh the temple as the monks, 100 strong, file out of the dining room, down the hallway and into the main temple for five minutes of service. They then file out of the temple and silently disperse.