Famen temple

A new face for Buddhist worship in China

Shaanxi Province, Xi'an Area


This temple is a site originally established during the Tang dynasty, at which time it became an important site of pilgrimage for sacred relics of the Buddha—a piece of bone. Multiple Emperors paid visits here and left considerable treasure, which—amazingly—was found intact in the crypt in 1987.

The site has been vastly altered by the addition of a huge modern temple complex meant to honor and house the Buddha relic. The modern temple, known as the Namaste Dagoba, was designed by Taiwan architect C.Y Lee.

Visitors seeking an old-world atmosphere are almost sure to be disappointed, but the new temple is impressive in its own right.

The temple is located about 1 1/2 hours from Xi'an in the bucolic Shaanxi countryside. This locale is riddled with archaeological treasures and tombs, including the famous Qin tomb and its terra cotta warriors.
On arrival, a vast parking lot, flanked by booths selling devotional wares.
Incense, like the temple, comes in XXL sizes here.
Devotional take-aways.
First impressive glimpses of C. Y. Lee's vision.
Inside: more devotional merchandise.
The fountain ponds inside the grand entrance create an ethereal atmosphere.
Lighting devotional candles
Some architectural impressions are oddly reminiscent of Egyptian temples.
The Namaste Dagobah looms in the distance.
Massive Buddhist statuary lines the walk out to the Dagobah. It's so far most people pay to ride an electric bus.
The Namaste Dagobah, apparently influenced by modern industrial design.
Buddha seems quite happy, despite the exterior housing.
The interior is nothing if not lush.
The reliquary with Buddha's bone
This is what started it... a modern (but accurate) reproduction of the tower that stood on this site during the Ming era, copied from period watercolors. Once the main attraction, it's now relegated to a minor sideshow due to the overwhelming presence of the new construction.
When the crypt under the temple was opened in 1987, real treasure was found... a lot of it. Lavish gifts from Tang emperors filled the underground vault, along with stone tablets registering the contents of the vaults in detail.
The original rock crystal housing for the Buddha bone.
It was nested in seven progressively larger reliquary boxes. Annoyingly, I haven't shown them in order here.
Textiles with gold thread and tea-making equipment emegred from the crypt.
The underground palace houses the crypt.
Looking into the crypt itself. It's a tight space, sealed with heavy stone doors.