Capital Monuments丨Zhihua Temple, out of the world and into the world

Capital Monuments丨Zhihua Temple, out of the world and into the world

Capital Monuments

The ancient city of Beijing has nurtured a wealth of world heritage sites and cultural relics over the millennia, which are both a testament to Beijing's history and a treasure of culture and art, as well as a record of the traditional Chinese way of life and humanistic customs. These architectural monuments are not only of independent value, but also constitute, with their unparalleled richness and integrity, one of the "most well-preserved, exceptional and precious masterpieces of art in the world, which continues to have the vitality of tradition".

"Through the excavation and popularization of each heritage site, we will gradually connect the dots into lines and the lines into surfaces; taking the functional classification as the horizontal axis and the historical time as the vertical axis, we will show the historical changes and construction art of a building and a thing, and tell the cultural spirit and city life of a time and a place.

In the hutong at the east entrance of Lu Mi Cang in Dongcheng District, a temple is hidden in the city. The gray gate is low-key, but if you look at the inscription on the gate, you can imagine its past glory from the word "Imperial".

Zhihua Temple, built in the ninth year of Ming Dynasty Zhengtong (1444), is the best preserved wooden structure complex of Ming Dynasty in Beijing. There are many cultural relics in the temple, the architecture, carvings, stone monuments, statues, frescoes and other monuments are beautiful and skillful, worth a closer look, while the background of the times and historical figures behind the construction of the temple have many stories and detailed historical information, which attracts visitors to dive in and find out more.

Capital Monuments丨Zhihua Temple, out of the world and into the world

01、Wang Zhen and Youngjong, the beginning of the construction of Zhihua Temple

Wang Zhen, the builder of Zhihua Temple, is quite notorious in the history books. As a teacher of Emperor Zhu Qi Zhen during his princely days and a close minister of the emperor, he was extremely close to Emperor Yingzong and held the power of the Chancellor without the name of Chancellor, which was the beginning of the eunuchs' dictatorship in the late Ming Dynasty.

Like most of the eunuchs' temples, Zhihua Temple was not open to the public at the beginning of its construction, but only as Wang Zhen's family property for its "continuity of incense". According to the stone monument "Imperial Gift Zhihua Zen Temple" written by Wang Zhen, in the ninth year of Ming Dynasty (1444), Wang Zhen built Zhihua Temple in two months, and was given the name "Reward Zhihua Zen Temple" by King Yingzong.

Zhihua Temple's incense flourished for five years, and in 1449, the Ming dynasty received its first great setback - the "Tumu Change". Yingzong was abetted by Wang Zhen in his own expedition against the Warlord, and was defeated and captured in Tumu Fortress, Wang Zhen also died in the chaos, thus the decline of Zhihua Temple. Yingzong was captured, his younger brother Zhu Qi Yu ascended to the throne under the aegis of minister Yu Qian, and the year was called Jingtai. Emperor Jingtai was quite successful, and in the first year of Jingtai, he defeated the army of Walla, and won the battle of the capital, Yingzong was released, but was imprisoned by his brother in the South Palace, a lock is seven years.

Capital Monuments丨Zhihua Temple, out of the world and into the world

In the eighth year of Jingtai, Emperor Jing suddenly fell seriously ill, and King Yingzong launched the "Mutiny of the Gate" to ascend to the throne again, setting the year as Tianshun. After the restoration, King Yingzong still remembered Wang Zhen, the culprit of the mutiny, and in the first year of Tianshun, he recruited his soul in the Zhihua Temple, giving him a python and a monument to show his "loyalty". In the following years, King Yingzong also showed his continuous attention and favor to Zhihua Temple by giving Buddhist classics to the Emperor. With the support of King Yingzong, Zhihua Temple once again flourished, and was repaired during the Ming Wanli and Qing Kangxi periods, and this flourishing scene lasted until the Qing Qianlong period.

Qianlong seven years (A.D. 1742), the Shaanxi Province, the supervision of the imperial historian of Shandong Province Shen Tingfang because of the public way Zhihua Temple, see the temple incense flourishing, Wang Zhen statue in a high position, the people do not know their crime instead of offering worship, immediately submitted to the Qianlong emperor, demolished the statue of Wang Zhen, chiseled off the stone monument on Wang Zhen's name and ode to show the court to suppress the powerful eunuchs. After this blow, Zhihua Temple declined day by day, and in the late Qing Dynasty, the monks in the temple lived by renting out their houses, and the two most exquisite algae wells in the temple were sold by the monks, and they have not returned to the overseas.

Capital Monuments丨Zhihua Temple, out of the world and into the world

As the family temple of eunuchs, Zhihua Temple has less of the atmosphere outside the party and more of the mysterious history. First of all, the construction period of the temple, according to the monument, Zhihua Temple was built in only two months, while its area and the complexity of the process, even if Wang Zhen's power is very strong, "daily service of 10,000 people", is difficult to complete. Many scholars, represented by Mr. Liu Dunzhen, believe that the temple should have been built earlier than the nine years of Zhengtong as stated in the inscription. The history of the Ming Dynasty" records: "to the seventh year of the Zhengtong era, the Queen Dowager collapsed, ...... Zhen then domineering uncontrollable. The first one is the Imperial City East, built Zhihua Temple, the extreme civil engineering". The actual power of the Empress Dowager died, it is difficult to control Wang Zhen, Zhihua Temple construction is likely to have begun in the eighth year of the Zhengtong.

There is another thing that has puzzled historical scholars. On the "Mutiny of Tumu" the culprit, "Ming Yingzong Shilu", "Ming History", "Northern Ambassador Record", "Vutai Record" and many other historical materials are recorded, is Wang Zhen persuaded King Yingzong imperial expedition, and in danger repeatedly for personal gain and obstructed the withdrawal of the army, the Ming dynasty was "unprecedented strange disaster The Ming dynasty was thus subjected to "a strange disaster unprecedented in history" and Yingzong was captured and humiliated. However, after the restoration of King Yingzong, but immediately chose to right the name of Wang Zhen, the inscriptions erected everywhere in recognition of his loyalty and achievements, and repeatedly during the reign of Zhihua Temple in favor, the move of King Yingzong is puzzling, but also for the temple added a lot of mysterious flavor.

Capital Monuments丨Zhihua Temple, out of the world and into the world

02、How to appreciate the architecture of Zhihua Temple?

In addition to the rich historical material, the time and position of Zhihua Temple itself provides an important reference for future generations of scholars.

Ming Dynasty architecture inherited the tradition of French style in the Song Dynasty and initiated the precedent of Qing style, keeping innovation in inheritance, which became one of its major characteristics. Zhihua Temple was built in the middle and early Ming Dynasty, and was one of the most famous Zen monasteries in the capital at that time. As an official-style building, its constituent elements better reflect the characteristics of Ming Dynasty architecture.

In terms of architectural layout, Zhihua Temple has the typical features of the layout of Buddhist temples in the early Ming Dynasty. China's monasteries follow the layout of ancient Indian cave temples, the initial pagoda as the main body of the Buddhist temple, the development of the Song Dynasty formed the "seven halls" of the basic formula, the temple no longer build a pagoda, but the pavilion as the focus of the whole hospital. In the early Ming Dynasty, the main body of the Buddhist temple is divided into two parts: the front courtyard and the main hall courtyard, Zhihua Temple and most of the temples we see today use the mainstream layout of the Ming Dynasty.

Capital Monuments丨Zhihua Temple, out of the world and into the world

In terms of architectural structure, Zhihua Temple can be described as a small museum of ancient architecture. Because of the turmoil during the Qianlong period, Zhihua Temple was not repaired for a long time afterwards, instead preserving the architectural structure of the early-middle Ming Dynasty. At the same time, the building was built in a less uniform style, with some parts following the practices of the Song Dynasty's "Building Method" and others closer to the simple, programmatic practices of the Qing Dynasty.

The biggest difference is in the arch. The arch, simply speaking, is the architectural structure between the pillar and the roof. Before the Song Dynasty, the layer of thick arch played an irreplaceable structural role, taking up the Shu Guang's angular eaves; while in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the arch gradually shrank to become a decoration, and the force structure became the form of purlins, pads and square. In Zhihua Temple, only the arch of Zhihua Gate adopts the Song system, other places are Ming and Qing systems, you can pay attention to observe when you visit.

In terms of architectural details, Zhihua Temple's algai and chakra collection are the most commendable.

The algae well is a distinctive decorative structure in ancient Chinese architecture, mostly found in palaces and temples above the center of important buildings, implying "fire prevention", "the world of bliss", "the dome of the sky " and other meanings. Algae well is also very early, the Han Dynasty tomb wall found on top of the simulated algae well lotus, diamond and other patterns, the Ming and Qing dynasties are the most exquisite royal carved dragon, its gorgeous and complex on the one hand to show the development of ancient wood construction technology, on the one hand, also reflects the ancient thought of respect for the inheritance of heaven.

There were originally three algal wells in Jihua Temple, which were set on top of three groups of buildings, namely, the Hall of Tibet, the Hall of Jihua, and the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Buddhas, but now only one remains in the Hall of Tibet, and the other two are displayed in the Nelson-Atkins Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the United States. Zhihua Temple algal well is the best of the large wooden carvings of the Ming Dynasty. The two sides of the algal well that have been stranded overseas are made of the finest nan wood and are as magnificent as the Ming and Qing imperial houses.

Capital Monuments丨Zhihua Temple, out of the world and into the worldCapital Monuments丨Zhihua Temple, out of the world and into the world

Another special structure in the Hall of Tibet is the "Wheel of Fortune". The so-called "wheel collection" is relative to the "wall collection", the function of both structures is to hide the scriptures, in fact, it is also a bookshelf, the wall collection is equivalent to the bookshelf arranged against the wall, while the wheel collection is a rotating bookshelf standing in the center of the house. The subtlety of the wheel collection is that its structure is integrated with the house frame, which shows the ingenuity of the woodwork structure.

The origin of the structure of the Wheel of Fortune is certainly not for the purpose of demonstrating technology, but this structure was created by Shanhui Daishonin in the Liang Dynasty of the Southern Dynasties, and the concept is similar to that of the Tibetan Buddhist scripture transmission tube, both designed to popularize Buddhism among the illiterate people. In addition, the Wheel of Fortune has 360 scripture cabinets, representing 365 days a year, and the order is arranged according to the thousand-character text, which is also more suitable for the habits of Chinese Buddhist believers.

03、Both the first "national treasure" and "non-foreign heritage" of the treasure exhibition hall

Today, Jihua Temple no longer has a religious function, but exists as a museum, and some of the halls have been set up as thematic exhibition halls, where collections from private collectors are regularly displayed. The carvings, statues and murals inside the temple itself are also worthy of appreciation. Due to the high specifications of the construction of Zhihua Temple, the builders believed in Buddhism and were financially strong, the wood carvings and painted murals in the details of the building are considered to be the best, which can make the viewers enjoy the sight.

In addition, Zhihua Temple retains a very important intangible cultural heritage, Zhihua Temple Jing Music, a type of music from the court of the Ming Dynasty, which is known as one of the "Five Great Ancient Music of China" along with Xi'an Chenghuang Temple Drum Music, Kaifeng Daxiangguo Temple Music, Wutai Mountain Qinghuang Temple Music and Fujian Nanyin.

Although the music of Jihua Temple is Sanskrit, it is based on the music of the Ming court. After the completion of the temple, Wang Zhen moved the court music, a symbol of the emperor's privilege, into Zhihua Temple, and formed a performance team of music monks, closed to study and practice. The transmission of Jing music adopts the way of "oral instruction" and maintains a strict and standardized training method, with no major changes in the music score.

Since last October, Beijing Zhihua Temple has been officially closed to carry out repairs to the ancient buildings. The renovation focused on the ancient buildings for partial repair, the future renovation and re-opening of the museum, Zhihua Temple in the function and display of the halls will remain unchanged. During the closure period, "Zhihua Temple" WeChat public number will still be released to inform you of the details and progress of the renovation. Although temporarily unable to reach the body, we can still "travel" in the music of this century-old temple, along the court music from five hundred years ago, once again into the long and heavy history of that period.

Capital Monuments丨Zhihua Temple, out of the world and into the world


[1] Sun Xin. An examination of the origin of Zhihua Temple in Beijing[J]. Beijing Archives,2016(01):54-57.

[2] Li Guangming. The cultural connotation of the architecture of Zhihua Temple in Beijing[J]. Ancient garden technology,2013(04):53-57+45.

[3] Qiu Yongzhe. Comparing the vault of the sky - the beauty of algae wells in ancient architecture [J]. Guangxi town construction,2016(09):98-108.

[4] Jin Caixia. An exploration of the historical events related to Wang Zhen-Yingzong-Zhihua Temple--Thoughts triggered by the "Yingzong Oracle of Wang Zhen Monument"[J]. Journal of Culture,2017(01):194-201.