Qianyuan Temple (Gourong, Jiangsu)

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Qianyuan Temple lies on the western slope of the Yugang Peak of Mt. Mao. According to legend, in the Qin dynasty, Perfect Man ( 真人 zhenren ) Li Ming refined Elixirs ( 煉丹 liandan ) at this place. In the Tianjian era of the Liang of the Southern Dynasties (502-519), eminent Daoist Tao Hongjing established the "Yugang Retreat' there. In the Tianbao era of the Tang dynasty (742-755), because Li Xuanjing inhabited this place, the emperor ordered to build the "Perfect Men’s Dwelling', as well as five pavilions named "Meeting Perfect Men', "Awaiting Immortals', "The Dao and its Virtue', "Receiving Rewards', and "Presenting Memorials'. In the Dazhong-Xiangfu era during the reign of Emperor Zhenzong of the Song dynasty (1008-1016), Zhu Ziying, the 23rd Patriarch ( 宗師 zongshi ) of The Complete Perfection Tradition ( 全真 quanzhen ) on Mt. Mao, built "the Nine-Layer Altar'. In the third year of the Tiansheng era (1025), "the Temple of Assembled Emptiness' was built, and was later renamed the "Qian Origin Temple ( 乾元觀 qianyuan guan )" by the emperor. There were already more than 800 houses in the Yuan Dynasty, but they were gradually deserted afterwards. In the Jiajing era of the Ming dynasty, Daoist Yan Xiyan inhabited the Qian Origin Temple. In the beginning, there were only the gate and humble houses. Xiyan traveled to Jinling to raise funds to build temples. The temple had originally the main gate and the western side gate. In the main gate was the Hall of The Numinous Official ( 靈官殿 lingguan dian ), and on its two sides were the eastern and western audience pavilions. Behind the western side gate was a small gate, the Precious Hall of Great Origin, and The Jade Emperor ( 玉皇 yuhuang ) Hall. On the eastern side of the hall was Perfect Man Li Ming’s well for refining elixirs, beside which was a stele on Tao Hongjing’s refining elixirs. On the western side of the hall were the sitting hall, the shrine, the repository and the western garden. The last row of halls consisted of, from the east to the west, the eastern audience hall, the Hall of the Sacred Mountain of the East ( 東岳殿 dongyue dian ), the Hall of the Three Pristine Ones ( 三清殿 sanqing dian ), the western audience hall, dormitory buildings, the Abbot ( 住持 zhuchi )'s room, the Tower of The Big Dipper ( 斗姆 doumu ), a three-storied palace-like building the Songfeng Pavilion, and sleeping houses and dining halls, etc.

In the period of the War of Resistance Against Japan, the command and the political department of the first detachment of the New Fourth Army led by Chen Yi stayed in the temple temporarily. On the 14th day of the 8th lunar month of 1938, the Japanese army invaded the temple. They burnt down this magnificent Daoist temple, and killed 12 Daoists, including the Temple Supervisor ( 監院 jianyuan ) Hui Xinbai. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Maodong Forestry Center built two rows of single-story houses on the ruins of the temple as dormitories for its employees. In 1993, the People’s Government of Jintan County approved of restoring the Qian Origin Temple as a Complete Perfection temple for female Daoists to open to the public. Till now the Hall of the Numinous Official, the Hall of the Three Pristine Ones, and the eastern and western audience halls have been renovated.