Zhúlínsì (Lúshān)

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High above Huiyuan's Donglinsi 東林寺, carved into the cliff face are three characters 竹林寺, Zhulinsi. This is a dream temple, there is no indication that it was ever a real temple. Note that over the character 竹 there are two dots which makes this character represent two shaved head monks. Why are these characters here?

Interestingly,there is a 竹林寺 Zhulinsi to the southwest of Southern Terrace on Wutaishan in Shanxi which has an interesting history as reported by Professor Robert Gimello in his article Chang Shang-ying On Wutaishan in the book Pilgrims and Sacred Sites In China edited by Susan Naquin and Chun-fang Yu.

"Shi Fazhao 釋法照 was a visionary Tang monk (d. ca. 820) associated with what would become to be regarded as the Pure Land tradition of devotional Buddhism. He seems to have hailed originally from Sichuan but moved to Mount Lu in Jiangxi, the home centuries earlier of his admired Huiyuan 慧遠 (334-416); there he practised the kind of visualation meditation Huiyuan himself had practised. In the course of such contemplations he had visions of the Buddha Amitabha and in one such saw an old man attending on Amitabha. That old man turned out to be another teacher of Pure Land devotion, a monk named Cheng Yuan 承遠 (712-802) who was then living in Hunan.

Fazhao went to Hunan, Nanyueshan/Hengshan, to study with Cheng Yuan and while there had visions of Amitabha in which he learned a special kind of melodic intonation of that Buddha's name, this being the practise for which he later became best known. He also had visions of a grand monastery on Wutaishan. At the time the monastery he saw did not exist, but Fazhao took the visions to mean that he was charged to build it. He therefor moved to Wutaishan around 770 and between 777 and 796 oversaw the building of this temple of his dreams, which he named the Monastery of The Bamboo Grove, Zhulinsi.

This was one of the temples that Ennin (the Japanese monk) would visit and describe only about fifty years later in 840."

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