Zhenren gong temple in Ziyang

The BTA's second project concerns the development of a temple in southern Shaanxi province dedicated to the immortal Zhang Ziyang, who lived in the area during the eleventh century. Also known as Zhang Boduan, he was a disciple of Liu Haichan and is well known as the founder of the Southern Lineage of the Quanzhen tradition, and for his classic work on Daoist inner alchemy, the Wuzhen pian, or Chapters on Awakening to the Real. For many years he lived in a cave on the southern bank of the Han river and it is here that he cultivated himself and obtained immortality. The town opposite this cave, on the north bank of the river, is named Ziyang after him, and the cave itself contains a shrine to the immortal.

Next to this cave there is a small valley that is the site of the new temple Zhenren gong. Originally just a collection of old buildings on seven acres of land, the site has been developed by the Daoist priest Feng Xingzhao when he was asked by the local people to build a temple in the area. When we talked with master Feng in January 1999 he told us how the work started at the site:
“I started work here in January 1998 and I had plenty of help from the local people who came to rewire the building and work on the basic structure to make it liveable in. The old storeroom was turned into a shrine for the immortal Zhang Ziyang and on the 18th day of the 12th moon (Chinese calendar), a group of us had a ceremony to move the photo of Zhang Ziyang from the shrine above the cave and bring it to this temple. On the day lots of people came to help and there were fireworks and chanting, and music played on the gong and other Chinese instruments. On the 28th day of the 12th moon we seated the Zhang Ziyang immortal where he is now and since that time the local residents and other visitors have been coming to the temple to pay their respects. The temple is called ‘Zhang Ziyang Zhen Ren Gong Xian Ren Dong’ which means ‘Zhang Ziyang True Person Temple Immortal Person Cave.”

Zhenren gong in January 1999

Only a minimum of work had been done at this time but we could see the potential of the place and were keen to support the project. We discussed the stages of development and agreed that it would start with the construction of a proper shrine hall for the immortal.

Now, in the summer of 2002, a huge amount of work has been completed. The first stage has involved the construction of the main shrine room on the upper level of the complex, dedicated to the main temple deity Zhang Ziyang, together with the surrounding courtyard and pavilion. Stage one has also seen the construction of a row of smaller individual shrine rooms on the lower level which house a number of other immortals from our tradition. The temple’s kitchen and toilet facilities have also been completed.

Construction of the shrine hall in Spring 2001

Daoist temples are not an austere environment so much attention has been paid to create pleasant surroundings . The two tier roof of the main shrine room has been finished in the traditional style with wonderful wood carvings and hand-painted panels, and master Feng has been very active around the temple creating gardens, planting trees and flowers and overseeing the building of a lotus pond with fountain.

The completed shrine hall, courtyard and pavilion in Spring 2002

The work is now near completion and an official opening ceremony has been arranged which will take place on the 7-8-9th of February 2003. The Association has donated almost £10,000 towards this project and additional donations have also been made by individual members. The BTA and the priests of Ziyang temple would like to thank all those who have supported this project through their membership of the association and through personal donations.

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