Dajue Temple is off the beaten path for most tourists, so we had it pretty much to ourselves. My dad's friends David and Mei have got an apartment in Beijing, and they and their two gorgeous kids introduced us to Dajue, which was remarkable; my favorite of all the temples we saw. It's north of the city, up in the mountains, and off to the left of the temple proper there's a lovely restaurant where we had traditional Chinese lunch. The temple itself is a series of halls running up the mountain. Each hall has a front entrance, and inside is an altar, with some sort of statue placed in the center of the hall. You walk around to the back of the altar, and there's a smaller doorway at the back, which is the entrance to the front courtyard of the next hall.
Inside the halls it was forbidden to take pictures, so i'm left to try to describe the interior. These temples competed only with the Great Wall in their ability to leave me completely awestruck. When you walk into the first temple, you're confronted by the four Devas, the Heavenly Kings, who guard the four directions in Buddhist temples. Four enormous painted wooden statues, 12 feet high, two on each side. 500 years old, they're in perfect condition, without looking newly restored. Ancient and powerful and beautifully carved. They were completely terrifying, and totally fascinating. (A gentleman less respectful than myself took this photo, of an ugly and immemorable Buddha, but it captures one of the Kings in the background.)
I steeled myself, and walked between them, across to the next hall. It was dark, and it was quiet, and empty of people. The air smelled of sandalwood incense, and nectarines: the offerings which lay piled on the altar. In the center sat three statues of Sakyamuni Buddha (the young, slender depiction), nearly as large as the Four Kings, and just as beautiful. The dust that coated their skin took off the wooden sheen and gave an appearance of flesh. The intricate carving of the half-lidded eyes made them seem about to open. Their right hands rested on their laps with a natural grace, and as i stared, i suddenly realized that i was waiting for them to move, to raise their hands in greeting. They looked capable of it. I stood, watching, until one of the women employees pressed a nectarine into my hand, and sent me on my way.
Click on any photo to enlarge.
The classic stone guardians watched over the gate.
With rather untraditional, quizzical expressions.
The approach up to the first hall.
The bridge across the turtle-pond.
The first ancient hall. Rather unusually plain, in unpainted wood, but beautifully carved and ornamented.
An upper gallery on the residence-building where the emperor, and later Mao, stayed on visits to the temple.
Me, on said gallery.
My dad takes photos as Mei's beautiful kids, assisted by waitresses, grind corn meal on the mock-up outside the restaurant.
The courtyard outside the restaurant, too damp for outdoor dining today.
Fantastically cool. The restaurant itself was modelled on the traditional style, and i spent all of lunch wishing that some martial arts experts would fly down out of the upper story and engage in kung-fu. Perfect spot for it.