Four Great Regions (Tibetan Style Temple)

Tibetan Style Temple
Tibetan Style Temple
Four Great Regions is a complex of classical Tibetan Buddhist buildings and currently the largest in Beijing. It was once a part of Houda Temple (also known as Sumeru Temple) which was the core structure in the axis on the northern or rear slope of Longevity Hill. To reach the temple, enter the North Palace Gate, cross the Suzhou Market Street, walk up to the hill and this Tibetan temple is the first group of buildings to appear.

Houda Temple and Puning Temple (one of the Eight Outer Temples) in Chengde were Buddhist temples with a mix of both Han and Tibetan style buildings, which were built almost simultaneously during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795). Although similar in form and structure, this one in the Summer Palace is north facing, contrary to the tradition for buildings to face south. This special complex of buildings has south and north parts, the south in Han style and the north in Tibetan style. All the wooden structures of the temple were burned down during the 1860 war. For lack of money, only Hall of the Buddha Confirming His Doctrine, the central building of the northern part was rebuilt later and what had been a double decked hall became just one level. In 1981, the northern part was basically restored. The building complex we can see now is called the Four Great Regions, its design based on the famous Samye Monastery in Tibet.

A pair of stone lions and two stone sutra pillars stand in front of a spacious platform which is all that remains of the southern part of Sumeru Temple. These pillars had been at the Temple for Praying Great Gratitude and Wishing for Longevity which also had been burned down and rebuilt as the Hall of Dispelling Clouds. The Hall of Dispelling Clouds was for grand celebrations and so no longer the right place for sutra pillars, which is why they were relocated at the Four Great Regions.
Four Great Regions
Four Great Regions
Some stone steps lead to a higher platform in the center of which stands the Hall of the Buddha Confirming His Doctrine, and symbolizing Mont Sumeru. Mont Sumeru was believed to be the center of the physical and spiritual universes in the ocean according to Hindu cosmology, as the abode of gods. The terrestrial sphere was divided into four dvipas (Sanskrit for islands, regions or continents) in the south, north, west and east – the four regions (or continents).

The four Buddhist buildings surrounding the central hall symbolize the four regions. The one in the south was rebuilt and changed to become the temple gate when Emperor Guangxu reconstructed the Summer Palace. They have different appearances and each Buddhist building has two smaller rectangular or hexagonal structures nearby together with a lama pagoda. The eight structures refer to the Eight Lesser Regions and four pagodas in red, white, black and green colors symbolize the ‘four wisdoms’ in sutra. There are two altars, called the Sun Alter and the Moon Altar, between the ‘four regions’ and ‘eight lesser regions’, giving an impression that the Buddha is surrounded by the moon and the sun.

A large scale renovation project for the Four Great Regions began in November, 2010 scheduled to last thirteen months. The attraction is expected to reopen to the public in Novermber 2011. The reconstruction of Sumeru Temple has been included in Beijing City’s agenda for cultural property preservation and restoration. The day for the project’s completion is not far off.

Next: Garden of Harmonious Interests

 Related Link: Summer Palace Travel Tips

- Last updated on Nov. 30, 2023 by Kate Liu -
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