Supreme Clarity Temple and Venerable Sovereign Platform (Luyi County, Henan)

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According to the Records of the Historian, Laozi was a man of Quren Li, Ku County, Chu State, a place considered to be the present-day Luyi County, Henan Province. Many Daoist temples were built in Luyi County in the past. However, only the Supreme Clarity Temple ( 太清宮 Tai Qinggong ) and the Venerable Sovereign Platform ( 老君台 Laojun Tai ) survived the modern times.

First built as the "Laozi Temple" ( 老子廟 Laozi Miao ) in the 8th year of the Yanxi Era of the Huan Emperor of the Eastern Han, the Supreme Clarity Temple lies on Hermit Mountain 5 km east of the county seat. In the 3rd year (629) of the Wude Era of the Gaozu emperor of the Tang, emperor Li Yuan retroactively recognized Laozi as the royal ancestor and made the Laozi Temple the Royal Ancestral Temple. In the 1st year of the Qianfeng Era (666), the emperor gave Laozi the honorable title "Supreme Emperor of the Mysterious Origin" ( 太上玄元皇帝 Taishang Xuanyuan Huangdi ) and built the Purple Pole Palace ( 紫極宮 Ziji Gong ). In the 1st year of the Guangzhai Era (683), empress Wu Zetian conferred to Laozi's mother the title "Empress Dowager of the Anterior Heaven" ( 先天太后 Xaintian Taihou ) and built for her the Palace of Pervasive Heaven ( 洞霄宮 Dongxiao Gong ). In the 2nd year of the Tianbao Era (743), the Emperor renamed it as the Supreme Clarity Temple.

The Supreme Clarity Temple is divided by the Clarity River into the front palace and the rear palace. About a mile from each other, the two palaces are connected by the Immortals'Meeting Bridge ( 會仙橋 Huixian Qiao ). The front palace houses male Daoists and the rear houses nuns. Occupying 720 mu of land, the two palaces include over 600 halls, platforms and towers. With high gates and straight ways, the front palace has the Hall of the Supreme Ultimate ( 太極殿 Taiji Dian ) in the center of its courtyard, with the Hall of the Seven Origins ( 七元殿 Qiyuan Dian ), the Hall of the Five Sacred Mountains ( 五岳殿 Wuyue Dian ), the Hall of the South Dipper ( 南斗殿 Nandou Dian ), the Hall of Emptiness ( 虛無殿 Xuwu Dian ), and the Pavilion of Clarity ( 清靜閣 Qingjing Ge ). A statue of Laozi stands in the Hall of the Supreme Ultimate. In front of the hall lies a copper eight-trigram elixir cauldron ( 八卦煉丹爐 Bagua Liandan Lu ). Beside the hall stands an iron pole -- Laozi's "mountain driving whip" ( 趕山鞭 Ganshan Bian ) or the symbol of his legendary position of historian under the pole" ( 柱下史 Zhuxia Shi ). In the east of the courtyard there is a "nine-dragon well" from where nine dragons came out to shower Laozi at his birth. With many standing tablets, the courtyard looks very grand and solemn.

Almost destroyed to ruin during the wars at the end of the Tang, the Supreme Clarity Temple was rebuilt in the Song Dynasty. In the 7th year (1014) of the Dazhong Xiangfu Era, the Zhen Emperor of the Song came in person to the Supreme Clarity Temple and held great rituals in the Palace of Pervasive Heaven and erected a stele bearing the Ode to the Empress Dowager of Anterior Heaven ( 先天太后贊碑 Xiantian Taihou Zan Bei ), which he had composed himself, at the east of the palace. Besides, the emperor ordered people to enlarge the temple. Destroyed by the wars at end of the Northern Song, the Supreme Clarity Temple was rebuilt in the Jin-Yuan period. In the 15th year (1335) of the Zhizheng Era of the Yuan, Han Lin'er addressed himself to the emperor and had the construction materials of the Supreme Clarity Temple moved to Bozhou to build his palace. In the 7th year (1579) of the Wanli Era of Ming Dynasty, people again repaired the Supreme Clarity Temple. In the 17th year (1678) of the Kangxi Era, Daosheng collected money to rebuild the temple, which was finished after 7 years. Damaged again in the wars during recent times, little now remains of the temple except for the Hall of the Supreme Ultimate in the front palace, the Hall of the Three Holy Mothers ( 三聖母殿 San Shengmu Dian ) and the Hall of the Puppet ( 娃娃殿 Wawa Dian ) in the rear palace, as well as some tablets (one from the Tang, two from the Song, one from the Jin, three from the Yuan and one from the Qing).

Lying at the northeast corner of the county seat, the Venerable Sovereign Platform was originally named the Platform for Ascending to Immortality ( 升仙台 Shengxian Tai ) or the Platform for Worshipping Immortality ( 拜仙台 Baixian Tai ). In the 6th year (1013) of the Dazhong Xiangfu Era, it was renamed as the Venerable Sovereign Platform. Thirteen meters high and measuring 706m2 at the top, the platform was piled up with huge ancient bricks. A column composed of 24 planes, the platform was surrounded with 70cm-high walls on the top. On the platform stand a three-room main hall and one-room side halls on each side. Originally, a finely cast bronze statue of Laozi stood in the main hall. On each side of the wall under the gate brim are two steles bearing the"True Origin of Dao and its Virtue" ( 道德真源 Daode Zhenyuan ) and the"Relic of the Dragon-like Saint" ( 猶龍遺迹 Youlong Yiji ). Originally, an antiquated iron pole stood loftily at the east inside the mountain gate, 7 feet in height and 7 feet in diameter. The 32 blue steps to the mountain gate together with one from the main hall comprise the number 33 in accordance with the legend that Laozi ascended to the 33rd heaven ( 三十三天 Sanshisan Tian ).