Zhihua Temple

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Zhihua Temple

Zhihua Temple (Wisdom Convert Temple 智化庙) is located at the eastern entrance of an old and populous lane called Lumicang Hutong in the Dongcheng District.

Built in 1443, it was the family temple of a eunuch named Wang Zhen in the Ming Dynasty. Six years later after its completion, the temple was confiscated by the imperial government because Wang Zhen was executed as a victim of factional struggles at court.

Though a family shrine, it was constructed strictly according to the traditional Buddhist temple layout. It has 10 halls in three compounds, and the main hall is in the middle compound, which is called Tathagata Hall (Rulaidian) and 10,000-Buddha Tower (Wanfoge). The hall has two stories. Its ground floor contains a three-meter-high image of Tathagata carved out of a nanmu (a kind of hard wood), and on its upper floor are 10,000 Buddhist statues, each 13 cm high, in the niches.

The temple houses a set of wood blocks for printing the Great Buddhist Scriptures. Carved in the Ming Dynasty under the order of the emperor, it is the only existing set of official wood blocks for printing Chinese-character Buddhist scriptures. Carved out of high-quality pear tree wood, the set includes 78,230 blocks in total. The carving began in 1733 and ended in 1738. About 200 editions have been printed from the blocks in the past 300 years, and the blocks still look as good as new.