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Stone Carvings on Flying Peak

 

 

The stone carvings dot the surface of Flying Peak, which is separated from Lingyin Temple by a stream called Lengquan. Flying Peak is made of limestone, approximately 168 meters high, with more than 300 stone carvings produced in the Five Dynasties and the Yuan Dynasty. A large number of grottoes can be found on the peak, such as Qinglin Grotto, Yuru Grotto and Longhong Grotto. Standing inside the grottoes are stones of various shapes and forms, along with statues of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Buddhist masters on the wall. It is the largest scale of carvings in Zhejiang Province.

The stone carvings on Flying Peak are located in an area of 600 meters long and 200 meters wide. Altogether there are 153 shrines and more than 470 pieces of carvings, among which 338 are relatively well-preserved, including 11 carvings with inscriptions or in style of the Five Dynasties, 222 carvings produced in the Song Dynasty and 96 carvings in the Yuan Dynasty as well as several in the Ming Dynasty. More than ten carvings were produced during the Five Dynasties and all of them are statues of the “Three Saints of the West” from Jingtu School of Buddhism, dotting the top of the peak and the mouth of Qinglin Grotto. On the west of the entrance of Qinglin Grotto, there are statues of Amitabha, Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta, which were built with funding from Teng Shaozong in 951. These three statues in the shrine are one of earliest carvings with inscriptions on Flying Peak, and they, in a late Tang Dynasty carving style, all sitting on Suneru lotus blossoms with fire patterns and back lighting.

The number of carvings produced in the Northern Song Dynasty has grown to over 200. Scattered inside the Golden Light Grotto are statues of small Arhats. Inside Yuru Grotto are relatively large-sized carvings of the Six Patriarchs of Zen Buddhism, which were built in 1026 in a traditional and simple style. On the cliff at the right side of the grotto mouth, there is a Buddhist carving about the story of “Vairocana Buddha”, which was built in 1022 with mature carving skills, complete structures and vivid images. At the southern side of Lengquan Stream is a shrine of Maitreya Buddha statue, surrounded by eighteen Arhats of various shapes and gestures.

Among the nearly 100 carvings that were built in the Yuan Dynasty, 19 pieces were exquisitely carved with clear inscriptions on them and they have been well-preserved. Most of the 100 carvings are located on the southern bank of Lengquan Stream and on the cliff near Qinglin Grotto and Yuru Grotto. Each Buddha is wearing his hair in a winkle-shaped bun with a tip on the top, draping a shirt over one shoulder with his right chest and arm naked; while Bodhisattvas are wearing crowns and gossamer or no clothes above the waist, and they have comely appearances and good figures. Presenting the art techniques of the Tang and Song Dynasties, these carvings are also of Tibetan and Mongolian characteristics.

The most striking carving is the statue of Maitreya Buddha with a rucksack located at the southern side of Lengquan Stream. The shrine is 9.9 meters long and 3.6 meters high as the biggest shrine on Flying Peak. The statue of Maitreya Buddha in the shrine is laughing kindly and blandly seated with his belly and chest naked. One of his hands is put on the sack and the other holding a string of beads. This Buddha image is always laughing with the eighteen Arhats at both sides surrounding and protecting him. This masterpiece, carved in the Song Dynasty in 1000 AD, has become the symbol of carvings on Flying Peak. “Maitreya”, transliterated from Sanskrit, means “loving-kindness”. Maitreya Buddha is from Tusita Heaven and a successor of the historic Sakyamuni Buddha. The prototype of the Maitreya Buddha statue, which is worshiped in Chinese temples nowadays and is always laughing with plump figure. The Monk Qici was  born in Fenghua in Zhejiang Province and became a Buddhist monk in Yuelin Temple. People believed that he was the avatar of Maitreya and began to worship him widely.

 

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