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Shuanglin Temple

Shuanglin Temple is located in the Qiaotou Village, which is only about 6 km. (3.7 miles) southwest of the County of Pingyao . Records show that the temple was first rebuilt in 571 during the Northern Dynasty (386-581). It was originally called 'Zhongdu Temple', and later renamed 'Shuanglin Temple' for the Buddhist story that it was under 'two trees' (Shuanglin in Chinese) that Sakyamuni expounded his last Buddhist doctrine to his disciples before achieving Nirvana. The temple is most famous for its thousands of colored sculptures and is described as the 'Oriental Treasure House for the Colored Sculptures'.

With a whole area of 15 thousand square meters (3.7 acres), the whole structure of the temple is very strict and imposing. It faces south and is divided into two parts: the east is the living rooms for monks and houses the collection of sutras, and the west is the three parallel courtyards, which consists of 10 majestic and distinctive halls. Along the axle line of the temple are the Tianwang Dian (Hall of Heavenly Kings), Shijia Dian (Hall of Sakyamuni), Daxiong Baodian (Hall of Great Strength) and Niangniang Dian (Hall of Goddess), with Wusheng Dian (Hall of Martial Saint, referring to Guan Yu), Luohan Dian (Hall of Arhats), Tudi Dian (Hall of Gnome) and Yanluo Dian (Hall of Hades) in the first courtyard, Qianfo Dian (Hall of Thousands of Buddhas) and Pusa Dian (Hall of Bodhisattvas) in the middle and another Zhenyi Ci (Ancestral Temple of Purity and Faithfulness) in the backyard.

The colored sculptures of the Shuanglin Temple are mainly clay sculptures made with wood moulds from the Ming Dynasty, which have kept the traditions of the former dynasties of Tang (618-907), Song (960-1279), Jin (1115-1234) and Yuan (1271-1368). There are a total of more than 1,500 pieces in the temple, on the subject of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Heavenly Kings, and other deities as well as more common figures. The most famous sculptures include statues of Guan Yu in Wusheng Dian, Kwan-yin with thousand hands in Pusa Dian, Veda Bodhisattva in Qianfo Dian, the Eighteen Arhats in Luohan Dian, and Sakyamuni in Shijia Dian, to name just a few.

Since it was opened to the public in 1979, Shuanglin Temple has attracted increasing numbers of visitors. It was declared as the key site for national cultural protection in 1988. And in 1997, along with the City Wall and Zhenguo Temple, it was listed in the World Heritage Directory and praised as 'a real and unique treasure' by UNESCO.

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