About Shuanglin Si
Shuanglin Si (Shuanglin Temple) is a holy Buddhist site in the UNESCO listed walled city of Pingyao, China. The first Shuanglin Si was built in the 6th century during the Wei Dynasty, however the current incarnation dates back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties. In the time of these dynasties, a period spanning from 1368 to 1911, Pingyao was an important banking centre.
Nicknamed the ‘Treasure House of Painted Sculptures’, Shuanglin Si is now famous for its approximately 2,000 Buddhist statues, each individually created and dating from the 12th to the 19th centuries and spread over the 10 halls of Shuanglin Si. Each clay statue is unique and has a character of its own.
Shuanglin Si history
The Buddhist temple at Shuanglin Si was founded in 571 AD during the Northern Qi Dynasty, although the remaining buildings date back to the Ming and Qing dynasties. The statues were lifelike and the patterned designs reflected religion and the daily life of people during the Ming and Qing periods. The temple was renamed ‘Shuanglin Si’ (meaning ‘double forest’) under the Song Dynasty to memorialise the Buddha who found Nirvana in a forest beneath 2 trees.
Among the statues were also several well-known Chinese cultural figures, such as Buddha, Bodhisattva, Warrior Guards, Arhat and the heavenly generals. Background scenes depicted towers, mountains, rivers, flowers and woodlands, so that the temples recreated grottoes.
During the Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976, as the Maoist state violently removed any signs of capitalism or traditionalism from Chinese life, many of the statues were stolen or damaged.
Shuanglin Si today
Today, the temple largely looks as it did when it was renovated under the Ming dynasty, and visitors are greeted by 4 giant guardsmen as they pass through the temple entrance. Highlights include the majestic arhats within the Tianwang Dian, and the thousand armed Guanyin in the Pusa Dian or Bodhisattva Palace. The Pusa Dan contains a thousand-armed Guanyin and the ceiling contains a guard as a 3-clawed, round and pot-bellied figure.
Getting to Shuanglin Si
The Shuanglin Si temple is easily reached by bicycle, motor-rickshaw (often 40 yen per trip) or taxi (between 60 and 80 yen) from Pingyao – only 4 miles away. Shuanglin Si is an hour and a half drive from the nearest international airport at Taiyuan Wusu.