Nanputuo Temple is a famous Buddhist temple in the coastal area of South-east China,located on Xiamen Island at the foot of the Wulaofeng-Five Old Men-chain of hills,close to the sed and next to Xiamen University.The backdrop of beautiful hills with their mysterious grottoes and their cover of green trees,and the deep blue sea with its sparkling waves in the azure of the sky,provides a delightful environment. Nanputuo Temple was founded in the Tang dynasty. It embodies the long history and culture of South-east China,and is famous as a "Temple of a thousand years". A pair of couplets on the pillars of the Mahavira Hall read:
Built during the Tang dynasty during the Kaiyuan reign period,
With its back to Wulao Peak,its face towards Mount Taiwu.
The temple was founded by the monk Qinghao who lived during the Tang(AD68-907)and 5 Dynasties periods(AD907-960). At that time, it was known as the Sizhou Temple, but later, in the Song Dynasty(AD960-1279), it was extended by the monk Wencui and renamed the Wujin Rock, meaning "Boundless Rock". In the year 1341, during the Yuan Dynasty(AD1271-1368), the temple was destroyed and was only rebuilt in 1368, the first year of Ming Emperor Hongwu's reign. At that time, the monk Jueguan changed its name to Puzhao,"Illuminating the Universe", Temple and the Puzhao Courtyard, and the resident monks numbered in the hundreds. The temple was renovated during the reign of Ming Emperor Yongle(1403-1423), but was destroyed once again in 1628 in the fighting that eventually brought the Ming Dynasty to an end.
In 1684, the 23rd year of the reign of Qing Dynasty Emperor Kangxi, General Shi Liang, the Duke of Jinghai, withdrew his army from Taiwan to Xiamen. He had a dream in which he saw four characters,bui ri pu zhao, meaning "The brilliant sun illuminates the world". He was astonished to learn the next day that there was in Xiamen a Puzhao Temple with an elderly Buddhist master called Huiri. Shi Liang discussed the Buddhist Dharma with Huiri, and such was his delight that, seeing that the temple was old and shabby, he resolved to restore it. The name of the temple was changed once again from Puzhao Temple to Nanputuo Temple because the Avatamsaka Sutra (Flower Adornment Sutra) says that Guanyin lives on Mount Potala. During the reign of the Qing Emperor Yongzheng(1723 to 1735), the temple came under the rule of the monk Jingfeng, a latter-day disciple of Xingmi, a follower of the Genxin (Eternal Truth) School at Nanshan Temple in Zhangzhou, and himself a follower of the Heyun School of the Linji Sect at Nanshan. Jingfeng did much construction work on the temple. The Heyun School was founded during the Ming Dynasty on the teachings of the Dhyana Sect by the monk Linji in the Nanshan Temple in Zhangzhou. His folluwers subsequently spread into Xiamen, Quanzhou, Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines. Nanputuo is one of the centres of the Linji Sect Heyun School in modern times.
In 1833, the 13th reign year of the Emperor Daoguang, Xingji a third generation disciple of Jingfeng, collected alms to extend the temple once again, in particular the Mahakaruna or Grand Compassion Hall and the surrounding cloisters, together with the Bell and Drum Towers. In 1895, the 21st year of the reign of the Emperor Guangxu, Xicang succeeded Fori, a follower of the Nanshan Heyun School, as abbot. He continued with the expansion of the temple, building seven halls, and held two mandala-preaching events-to spread Buddhist teachings. In 1921£¬Zhuanfeng, another follower of the Heyun School, became the abbot, and in 1924, replacde the old "in-house" system of appointing abbots to an open system named the "ten directions Sangha gathering" system.
Master Huiquan was appointed abbot through the "ten directions Sangha gathering" system, the first to be appointed by the new system. After taking up office, with the support of Master Zhuanfeng, Master Huiquan established the Minnan Buddhist College, of which he was the first Dean. In 1927, with the full support of Master Huiquan, Master Taixu was appointed Abbot of Nanputuo Temple and Dean of the Minnan Buddhist College. During his period in office, Master Taixu was active in reforming the standard of the monkhood and propagated set of "Outlines for the Monkhood in Modern China", implementing "Trust in the Three Treasures-Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha-to create the monkhood; study the Six Perfections to achieve complete monkhood". Master Taixu also reformed the teaching system and the syllabus of the Minnan Buddhist College, established a graduats school with different specialisms available for graduate students to choose. He himself also taught the monks, requiring them to maintain high standards both academically and spiritually. He lectured on subjects including:"The training of monks should be based on regulations and practices"; "The aims and purpose of Buddhism";"Outline of Buddhism for novice monks". Under the title of "The crisis in the current training of monks and the future of Buddhism", he also energetically opposed the acdemic style of the old schoar-officials in the training of monks. He also encouraged novices to realise their duty to promote the welfare of Buddhism, and to develop the habits of diligence, endurance, simplicity and poverty and devote themselves to the promulgation of Buddhism. As a result of Master Taixu¡¯s teaching, personal discipline and consolidation of the rules, the spirit of the Minnan Buddhist College was renewed, and the College became one of the best Buddhist colleges in China, and renowned the world over. A number of Buddhist master of high repute for their ability and integrity graduated from the College, including Master Yinshun and Master Zhumo. In 1938, the 64-year-old Master Huiquan was unanimously re-invited to become Abbot of Nanputuo Temple again.
In 1957, Master Miaozhan became the eighth abbot of Nanputuo Temple,a pusition he held for 39 years until his death in 1995. During his tenure, Master Miaozhan exterded the temple, re-opened the Minnan Buddhist College and establish the Nanputuo Temple Charity Foundation, all of which laid a solid foundation for the future development of Nanputuo Temple. In 1997, in accordance wite the electoral system, the Temple invited Master Shenghui to be the 9th, 10th and 11th abbot. During his term of office, Shenghui set a good example for his fellow monks by his diligence in practising Buddhist teachings, inluding the Buddhist observances, about karma, teaching arousal of mind towards enlightenment and teaching the ethics, and by practising the precepts of combining learning wite practice and building up the temple community. As a resule, Nanputuo Temple became a centre of Buddhist practice for all followers of Buddhism, a cradle nurturing Buddhist talents, and at the same time a window of communication between Chinese Buddhism and world Buddhism. In October 2005, Master Zewu became the 12th abbot. The new abbot is committed to cultivating the humanist spirit of Master Taixu:"Only by worshipping Buddha can you become a complete man; completing yourself as a man is completing the Buddha; that is a true description of reality." He comtinuously looks to open up new avenues, promote patriotism and devoutness, create prosperity fot the temple and stability for the monastic community, practice Buddhism, and benefit the people as a whole.
Under the careful management of its many abbots, the buildings of Nanputuo Temple have been renovated many times and its courtyards enlarged; the Temple has held many activities for both committed Buddhists and interested members of the public, and has become an inspiration to all the other temples in the south-east of China.
Nanputuo Temple is a big temple, covering 25.8 hectares with 21,270 square metres of building space. The temple occupies the northem part of its site and faces south; it has its back to the hills and its face to the sea. In architectural terms, it is divided into two parts. The external pare is like a garden, with terraces and pools, including pagodas and a lotus pool; the interior part consists of the temple buildings and the monks¡¯ quarters. The main body of the temple comprises the Tianwang Hall,the Daxiong(Mahavira; Great Buddha)Hall, the Dabei(Mahakaruna;Grand Compassion)Pavilion and the Sutra Hall, built close together taking into consideration the lie of the hills, and creating a majestic atmosphere. The three main halls are enclosed on east and west by lofty cloisters, which unite them as a whose. Outside the two cloisters, symmetrically arranged, lie the Puzhan,"Illumination", Building, the Haihui, or "Holy-ones Gathering"Building, the Gongde, or "Buddhist Virtues" Building, the abbot¡¯s residence, the teaching building, the charity building and the monks¡¯ dormitories.