Dai Temple

The Dai Temple, commonly known as Dongyue Temple, lies at the foot of Taishan Mountain in Shandong Province.

Taishan Mountain is the first of the Five Famous Mountains in China. The Dai Temple constitutes the largest group of constructions at Tai Mountain, where emperors since the Qin (221-206BC) and Han (206BC-220AD) period held grand ceremonies to worship heaven, pray and give thanks for peace and prosperity. The size of the temple reached its peak during the Tang (618-907)-Song (960-1279) period containing over 800 halls and pavilions. It was renovated repeatedly during the Jin (1115-1234), Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties, and extended to its current scale. Dai Temple is listed as one of the four ancient architectural groups in China, along with the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Three-Kong of Qufu in Shandong, the Mountain Summer Resort and the Eight Outer Temples in Chengde.

Covering an area of 96,500 square meters, the Dai Temple is divided into three sections -- the middle, east and west. Constructions built on the central axis from south to north are the Zhengyang Gate, Yaocan Pavilion, Tiankuang Hall and the Sleeping Hall. In the east section are the Bell Tower, Hanbai Hall and Dongyuzuo. The Drum Tower, Tanghuai Hall and Daoshe Hall lie in the west.

The Tiankuang Hall, the main construction at the Dai Temple, was built in 1009 during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The hall has nine rooms and is 48.7 meters long, 19.8 meters wide and 22.3 meters high. It was built on a stone base surrounded by white stone-carved railings. The hall has a double-eaved gable and hip roof covered with yellow glazed tiles. Inside the hall is a huge fresco from the Song Dynasty called the Picture of the Returned God in a Horse-drawn Carriage. The fresco, which is 62 meters long and 3.3 meters wide, describes the return of the god of Dongyue Tai Mountain from an inspection tour. Altogether there are more than 630 painted figures in the picture, including various rare birds and animals, hills, trees, palaces and pavilions that provide precious insight into the study of the Song Dynasty painting style.

Located at the back part of the east section is a copper pavilion imitating a wooden structural style. Built in 1615 during the Ming Dynasty, the pavilion is one of the few precious copper-cast constructions in China. the pavilion is wide. Powerfully sculpted, the 4.4-by-3.4-meter structure was built using high techniques that make it an elaborate specimen among other ancient copper-cast works in China.

A total of 151 stone tablets from past dynasties containing various inscriptions of memorials, scriptures, names and poems can be found inside the Dai Temple -- also reputed as the Forest of Steles. A stone tablet in Dongyuzuo, which was engraved in 209 BC, told of the imperial decree of the second emperor of the Qin Dynasty. It is the oldest inscribed stone tablet in China. Other famous tablets from the Eastern Han (25-220), Western Jin (265-316) and Tang (618-907) Dynasties are also stored at the Hanbai Hall.

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