Temple of Original Sublimity (Huizhou, Guangdong)

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Situated on the beautiful northern bank of the West Lake of Huizhou, the Temple of Original Sublimity ( 元妙觀 Yuanmiao Guan ) is a famous ancient temple and the site of Hiuzhou Daoist Association, founded in 1993. First built in the 7th year (748) of the Tianbao Era in the Tang dynasty, it was named Chaoyuan Temple and later renamed as Kaiyuan Temple. In the 9th year (1016) of the Xiangfu Era in the Song dynasty, it was named by the emperor as Tianqing Temple. In the Yuan dynasty, because the name of the dynasty was taboo according to Chinese custom, it was renamed Xuanmiao Temple. In the Jiaxing Era of the Ming dynasty, it was renamed Temple of Original Sublimity. This name remains till now. Just as The Triple Origin Temple ( 三元宮 Sanyaun Gong ) in Guangzhou, it belongs to The Complete Perfection Tradition. Some say the Temple of Original Sublimity is a branch of the Temple of Emptiness ( 沖虛觀 Chongxu Guan ) in Mt. Luofu. But according to the elder abbot Wang Chengqian, this is a misunderstanding caused by the fact that Du Yangqian, abbot of the Temple of Emptiness, was once invited to be a part-time abbot of the Temple of Original Sublimity in the Kangxi Era.


Since its founding, the Temple of Original Sublimity has experienced rises and falls. According to the Brief Record of the Construction of the Temple of Original Sublimity, the temple enjoyed its prime in the Yuan. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, people repaired it several times and built The Jade Emperor Tower ( 玉皇閣 Yuhuang Ge ). In 1942, Japanese invaders stationing in the temple saw some anti-Japanese slogans on the walls and burned the Hall of the Three Pristine Ones, the Jade Emperor Tower and a side hall. After so many years, only the mountain gate now retains the characteristics of the Ming structure. A couplet carved on the stone pillar says, "Original is the purple mansion founded in the Tang; Sublime is the Feng Lake separating worldly affairs". In the 1950's, the remaining mountain gate, the left side hall, several images of deities such as the Jade Emperor, and several Daoists still existed. In the Cultural Revolution, the images were ruined and the Daoists dismissed. In 1982, the temple resumed its religious activities, with the left side hall and the images of deities such as the Jade Emperor and Guanyin being rebuilt first. In 1985, under the help of Daoists at home and abroad, the temple prepared to rebuild the halls of the Jade Emperor and of the Three Pristine Ones. People laid the base of the halls in 1987 and finished the construction in 1989. In 1990, the Temple of Original Sublimity was ratified as a municipal cultural relic protection unit.


With the Precious Hall of the Jade Emperor in the front and the Hall of Three Pristine Ones at the rear, the temple consists of two courts with, as annexes, the Incense Offering Tower, the Heavenly Steps before the Hall and Steps to the Frontispiece. The Heavenly Steps before the Hall have two pathways with a chart of the Supreme Ultimate and the twelve animals representing the earthly branches in the middle. They form an axis with the main construction. The recovered buildings in the temple include the Hall of Sixty Jiazi, the Hall of the Northern Emperor, the Hall of Guanyin, the Hall of Baozheng, the Hall of Emperor Guan, etc.


In the Song Dynasty, Su Dongpo became a frequent guest of the Daoists in the temple when exiled to Huizhou. He drank with Daoists and wrote many poems. Bai Yuchan, a.k.a. Perfect Man Ziqing, once cultivated in the then Tianqing Temple. In the Kangxi Era, the city mayor Wang Ying built the Ziqing Tower in memory of the Perfect Man and carved the stone tablet of Explanations for Not Erecting an Image of Perfect Man Bai in Ziqing Tower. This is one of the older tablets in Huizhou.