Exploring the Western Zen Temple, Yueyang County

The Western Zen Temple

By: Daniel Otero


Placing China with a 5,000 year history, this next temple visited was one established 1,500 years ago. Thinking, this is simply incredible! Taking China back to a time when Buddhism and Kung Fu were being fully developed side by side in this part of the world. For a place like Huarong County, near the city of Yueyang in the province of Hunan hold to the importance of learning how to get away to the idyllic countryside and its temple. The place is called the Xichan Temple or Western Zen Temple

Identified by three flags on its mast: that of China, the 'party' and Zen Buddhism.  It is the typical colors of mustard-yellow, red and multi-colored ceiling that call the visitor to enter this place of worship.

A little over two hours northeast of Changsha, it is a hot day and with gorgeous blue-skies, the temple opens early for visitors: between 0600 hours for the early risers and closes around 1730 hours (Keep in mind that this area takes two hour-breaks between 1200 to 1400 hours.). But in this isolated part of the countryside there isnt many visitors or noisiness for that matter. The monks are chanting,while others work diligently on the grounds to keep it clean and there is a pair doing morning readings in a meditative state. There is the quiet to contemplate for a moment.  The crowds are not here, at least not yet, wont be until Spring Festival or National Holiday.

Why the attraction to a temple?


A temple is a place for peace, something many cannot find everyday. A release. Plus this is a national treasure to be taken care of for those who come; whether they are Chinese or foreigner. Further, to protect these structures is important for the future generation.


The grounds are easily covered in less than an hour. The first parts of the temple to visit are the buildings to the right and left. These enlightened figures are part of two story-buildings: the bottom portions are to worship, the top is to play the drum (right) or bell (left) on the second level. This is played at least three times, basically for being thankful for the opportunity to be blessed by these deities. 

For those giving worship, some will light candles or incenses for prosperity.

The three buildings in the center of the temple/monastery contain the biggest Buddhas. For such a small place, it can be impressive. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but at least those who are attracted to temples feel that way.

The principal Buddha is that of joy for those searching for a happy life and inside the structure it contains other Buddhas. People who come in will bow three times in prayer. Upon entrance there is a rainbow of yellow flags engulfing the structure and around this Buddha.

Then there is the Bodhisattva Buddha, that is represented with 1,000 arms. This Buddha represents compassion and care for the world. 

The last one of the Buddhas is the Enlightened or Noble Warrior. This Buddha stands for honour and protection of others.

The walking is simple, easy,relaxing.  Feeling away from the world at least for the moment. 

Take the time to visit these temples along Hunan. Other than holding an impressive record in a long history of beauty and traditions, the visitor is doing something which would take most people a lifetime to travel throughout Asia. Therefore, this ones for you, do enjoy and better yet, the temple is absolutely free.  What some people do is give a donation to the facilities through the purchase of: candles, incense or placing RMB in the money boxes where the Buddhas are located. 

How to reach the Xichan Temple?


Remember, this is an exploratory trip and learning more about Hunanese culture; therefore, with the visit to the temple, fill in your day visiting the town of Huarong and eating the delicious local foods there. If it is by transport (bus or auto), your best bet is to take the main highway G107 to Yueyang and work your way to Xi Chan Si (221Dao Xi - (221).


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