Taer Temple

The Ta'er Temple is located at the southwest corner of Lusha'er Town in Niezhong County, Qinghai Province.

The Ta'er Temple is one of the six temples of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The whole complex includes the Large Gold Tile Hall, the Small Gold Tile Hall, the Longevity Hall, the Large Classics Hall, the Manjusri Bodhisattva Hall, the Sakyamuni Hall, the Hall for Warrior Attendants of Buddha, the Amitabha Buddha Hall, the Time Wheel Tower, the large kitchen, the Eight Towers for Buddha, the Passage Gate Tower and other buildings, covering over 600 mu (40 hectares).

Inside the temple, there are four academies, namely the Xian (evident) Sect, the Mi (secret) Sect, the Astronomic Academy and the Medical Academy. The academies of the Xian and Mi were the places where the senior monks studied the Buddhist classics and doctrines, while the other two were the institutions of higher learning to foster excellent scientific and technical talents for the Tibetan and Mongolian nationalities. As a combination of the Tibetan and Han forms, the complex has a unique style. The layout is compactly organized and the towering buildings display great momentum with a resplendent and magnificent view.

The Ta'er Temple was the birthplace of Zongkaba, the founder of the Gelug Sect. In the 12th year (1379) of the Hongwu reign in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Zongkaba's mother built a pagoda at the birthplace of her son, and a tiled house to shelter it. This is the oldest religious building in the Ta'er Temple. In the 39th year (1560) of the Jiajing reign in the Ming Dynasty, Monk Renqinzong Zhejianzan who was cultivating built a small Buddhist temple at the south foot of the Lotus Flower Mountain. In the 5th year (1577) of the Wanli reign in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), a Buddhist monk built an Amitabha Buddha hall on the left side of the Daling Pagoda according to the order of the third Dalai Lama. After that, monks and disciples of all dynasties extended and refurbished the Ta'er Temple many times and made it more magnificent. It attracted tens of thousands of people in different nationalities such as the Tibetan, Han, Mongolian and so on to worship and became the center of Buddhist activities in the northwest. It enjoys fame far and wide and is the well-known Holy Land of Buddhism.

The main hall of the Ta'er Temple is the Large Gold Tile Hall, which is the earliest building in the temple. Covering nearly 450 square meters and with three eaves relying on the sidewalls, it is in the Han style displaying a magnificent view. The hall was first built in 1379 and it was a simple and crude house covered with tiles. Later on, the hall was expanded by the nearby Tibetans and disciples with alms. In the 50th year of the Kangxi reign in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a Mongolian county official in Qinghai donated one thousand and three hundred taels of gold and twelve thousand taels of silver to cover the middle layer of the roof with gold-plated bronze tiles. In the 5th year (1740) of the Qianlong reign in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1840), the then Tibetan King set aside 27,000 taels of silver to roof the Large Gold Tile Hall with all gold-plated tiles. On the ridge of the hall a big gold roof shaped in a treasure vase was placed, with a pair of puffing flame decorations on both sides of it. The hall is 19 meters high and the Daling Pagoda is enshrined in it. The Pagoda is 11 meters in height, gold-plated on the silver base and inlaid with various treasures. Zongkaba's clay statue is enshrined in the middle niche of the pagoda.

In front of the pagoda, there are ornaments and musical instruments used in the Buddhist mass, such as gold lamps, silver lamps, bronze lamps, ivories, and ancient vases, etc. On the lotus throne, there are statues of Buddha. Buddhist stories were painted on the walls and ceiling. The pictures are vivid and vigorous. In the hall, there is a stele granted by Emperor Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty. Hundreds of Buddhist sutras are treasured up in the hall. On both sides of the Large Gold Tile Hall, there is the Amitabha Buddha hall. The right one (called as the Upper Xiankang) was built in the 5th year (1577) of the Wanli reign in the Ming Dynasty and the left one (called as the Lower Xiankang) was built in the 22nd year (1594) of the Wanli reign.

Right ahead of the Large Gold Tile Hall, it is the Large Classics Hall. It was first built in the 40th year (1612) of the Wanli reign, and originally a small classics hall supported by 30 pillars. In the 41st year (1766) of the Qianlong reign, it was expanded into a Tibetan building supported by 154 pillars with two stories and a flat roof. The Large Classics Hall has a construction area of more than 2,750 square meters. There are beautiful and elegant pictures carved on the upside of the 108 pillars standing tall and upright in the hall. The pillars are wrapped in colored blankets with embroidered tortuous dragons. The ridge beam, pendentive, sunk panel and Buddhist story frescos are all colorful. There is a variety of antependium, warps, streamers, flags, canopies, embroideries, barbolas and other ornaments. Various tall and gold-plated pillars, Buddhist treasure vases, bells , pagodas, Buddhist wheels, gold deer and others are placed on the roof, which decorates the Large Classic Hall and makes it resplendent and magnificent.

Located at the northeast corner of the temple, the Small Gold Tile Hall is the protecting temple of the Ta'er Temple. It was first built in the 31st year (1692) of the Kangxi reign in the Qing Dynasty. Originally it was covered with glazed tiles, and then they were replaced with gold-plated tiles in 1802. The main hall has two storeys with a single eave. It has a construction area of 1,127 square meters. Five statues of brave protecting gods are enshrined in the hall and the furs and specimens of tigers, leopards, bears and other ferocious animals are displayed on both sides. On the left side, the body of the white horse ridden by the ninth Panchen Lama is enshrined. The legend has it that the ninth Panchen Lama rode on this horse from Tibet to Qinghai and arrived at the Ta'er Temple within one day. Later on the white horse ridden by Panchen Lama was enshrined here. Around the walls in the yard there are various fine and beautiful frescos. The skillfully made specimen of wild oxen, goats, monkeys, black bears and other animals are displayed in the porches on both sides.

The Longevity Hall is in front of the Small Gold Tile Hall, which was built by the monks in 1717 to wish the longevity for Dalai Lama the seventh. It has a built up area of 772 square meters. There are statues of Sakyamuni and his two disciples in the hall. Along the both sides of the hall, there are statues of Manjusri Bodhisattva and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva. The caving and colored paintings in the hall are exquisite, graceful and unsurpassed. The walls were built with glazed bricks carved with beautiful patterns. Several pipal trees stand in the yard. When it comes to the summer, dense shade shelters the yard and flowers boom with fragrance.

On the square of the Ta'er Temple, eight Buddha Pagodas are standing tall and upright, which are tidy and pleasing to the eye. Built in the 41st year (1766) of the Qianlong reign of the Qing Dynasty, they were arranged in one row to eulogize the eight good deeds and merits of Sakyamuni in his life.

There are three famous arts called as three unique in the Ta'er Temple, namely butter sculptures, frescos and barbolas. Butter sculptures are made of butters displaying various figures of Buddha, figures, birds and beasts, trees and flowers, elaborate Chinese architectures, religious stories and myths and others. They are vivid and lifelike with skillful handcrafts. Butter sculptures have a long history. It is said that in the 15th year (641) of the Zhenguan reign in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), when Princess Wencheng of Tang married to Songtsan Gambo of Tubo, she brought a statue of Sakyamuni from the capital Chang'an. In order to express their respect, the disciples presented a bundle of butter sculptures in front of the statue of Buddha. Since then, it has become a custom of the Tibetan people. Butter sculptures were spread to the Ta'er Temple. The artist monks in the temple studied very hard and further developed this art on the subject and technology, thus it became a unique and excellent butter sculpturing art possessed by the Ta'er Temple.

Frescos can be founded on the walls of each hall. Most of them were painted on the curtains, while some of them were painted directly on the walls or the ridge beams. The dyes for the frescos are lithoid minerals, bright and unfading.

Barbola was uniquely created by the Ta'er Temple and is one of the Tibetan arts. Silk with various colors is cut into different shapes as intended, such as figures of Buddha, figures, flowers, birds, beasts and etc. Then they are filled with wool and cotton and embroidered to the curtains. Because the middle part is protruding, it has three-dimensional appeal. The contents of barbola are mostly about Buddhist stories, religious life and others.

There are four important Buddhist meetings (meeting to read classics) held in the Ta'er Temple, respectively in each lunar January, April, June and September. During the period, there are religious activities such as the sorcerer's dance in trance (Master dance), bathing the Great Buddha in the sun (to show the respect), and displaying butter sculptures, etc.

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