Built in 555 AD, during one of the early peaks of Chinese Buddhism, the Xiangguo Temple has seen more than its fair allotment of turbulence. Wars and floods over the course of many centuries have taken their toll on thisvenerable abbey. Yet, no matter fate's dire barrage on the Xiangguo Temple, this sacred monument has always found its way back to prominence.
Located in downtown Kaifeng, the Xiangguo Temple covers an area of 33 hectares including 64 Zen courtyards. It houses over one thousand monks. The structures of the Xiangguo Temple include: the Tianwang Hall, the Daxiong Hall, the Octagonal Glazed Hall and the Scripture-Keeping Tower. These grand and venerable spaces are graced with the presence of numerous Buddhist treasures. Most prominently, in the Octagonal Glazed Hall, a 7-meter-tall four-faced wooden statue of goddess of compassion, Kwan-yin, reaches out to visitors with her 1,000 delicate arms. Carved out of a single gingko tree trunk, this monument to mercy and kindness was patiently crafted over the course of 50 years.
As the imperial temple of antiquity, Xiangguo Temple hosted several imperial activities. Emperors were known to celebrate their birthdays on the Temple grounds. Official blessings and worship ceremonies were, quite expectedly, carried out at the imperial temple. The Temple service to Buddhism has also included the benevolent work of unifying Chinese Buddhism with foreign worshippers. In the Tang Dynasty, the Japanese monk Konghai, famed translator of Buddhism's sacred texts, came to study at the Temple. In the Song Dynasty, the Temple served as the imperial reception center for foreign monks as well as foreign ambassadors. During this period, a group of Japanese monks, having worshipped at the Temple, returned to Kyoto to erect their own "Xiangguo Temple."
In more recent times, the Xiangguo Temple continues to function as the site of many revered events and memorials. In 1992, 4,000 abbots from around the world attended the succession ceremony for the abbot of the Xiangguo Temple. Buddhist luminaries as well as everyday monks gathered in this show of friendly accord between practitioners of all nations. One year later, in 1993, at the bequest of the Singaporean Linshan Temple, Sakyamuni's sacred remains were formally enshrined in the Xiangguo Temple. Every Lunar New Year, the Temple hosts the Lantern Festival to usher in another year of peace, prosperity and happiness for the Chinese people. Streets lined with shining lanterns, skies illuminated with fireworks, and melodious sounds of songs and drums fill the Temple and its surroundings. Another annual Temple event is the Kaifeng Chrysanthemum Exhibition. The Xiangguo Temple opens this event with a prayer ceremony. This hallowed recitation invocates for prosperity and peace throughout the country, as the resounding bell rings out to echo these blessings.