At the front door of Jinshan Temple, raise you head and you can see the horizontal inscribed board saying “Jiang Tian Temple” which were inscribed by Kangxi Emperor of Qing Dynasty when he was accompanying his mother to Jinshan Mountain to pray. Here Jiang Tian Temple is the nowadays Jinshan Temple and has long time being an ancient Buddhism temple famous in domestic China and abroad. The Temple is initially built in Eastern Jin Dynasty with the name of Zexin Temple and enjoys a history of more than 1,500 years. Later in Nan Dynasty and early Tang Dynasty, the temple got its final name as Jinshan Temple. The temple is of great scale, covering more than 3,000 monks and tens of thousands of monks and priests in its flourishing time. In Qing Dynasty, Jinshan Temple, together with Putuo Temple, Manjusri Temple, Daming Temple, are titled as the Four Great Temples in China.
Jinshan Temple has twice changed its form from a Buddhism temple to a Taoist temple due to the different belief of different emperors. Once in Tang Dynasty, Jinshan Temple was changed to be Longyou Taoist Temple which lasted for around two hundred years. The other time is in Song Dynasty, the fourth year of Zhenghe Period, since the current emperor believed in Taoism, he changed Longyou Temple to be a Taoism Temple named Shenxiao Yuqing Wanshou Gong (Shenxiao means the highest greatness of Taoism, and Yuqing means the precious peaceful and quiet place, Wanshou means long life) which was the greatest Taoism Temple at that time and later the temple obtained its former name as Longyou Temple.
In general, front doors of temples open southwards while that of Jinshan Temple opens right westwards and there is an interesting story for it. It is said that long time ago, the front door of Jinshan Temple was also southward, but at that time the temple was always attacked by fire and there was always earthshaking noise heard around the front door. Master Monk of the temple at that time was very uneasy about it and felt queer. He invited a traveling monk to predict and the traveling monk walked around the temple and finally told the abbot “my master, your temple front door opens southward and directs straightly the south door of the heaven and offend the Jade Emperor, you must change the direction of your front door here.” and the abbot clapped his hands (routine of monks) then and said “Zui Guo (means fault or guilt in Buddhism)”and he instructed to change the direction of the front door to nowadays westwards.
Story is after all a story. The actual reason why the front door of Jinshan Temple is westward really exists. Analysis from historical data shows that there is underlying meaning for architects to build the front door westwards. Jinshan Mountain located in the heart of Yangtze River, travelers there looked from the Westwards door could catch in sight that Yangtze River was flowing rapidly downwards, just like the poem saying that “eastward flows the Yangtze River and from westward the mountains arrive.” And this reflects the architect’s consideration here.
Enter the Hall of Heavenly Kings from the front door, there is Maitreya consecrated there namely smiling Buddha by folks. Around Maitreya was the forged Four Heavenly Guardians which are tall and vivid with the meaning to guard the front door. The Four Heavenly Guardians are commonly referred to Four Heavenly Kings and thus the hall is called the Hall of Heavenly Kings. The King on the left side is Dhrtarastra and the King on the south is Virudhaka while the King on right side is Virupakkha and the Vessavana. There is an antithetical couplet near Maitreya saying:
Tolerable my stomach is, solving so many folk affairs;
Full happiness my bosom is filled with, laughing over so many miseries!
There is a pair of huge stone lions at the front of the memorial gateway of the Hall of Heavenly Kings!
Back to the Hall of Heavenly Kings is the Great Buddha’s Hall. Temples are frequently burnt. The original Great Buddha’s Hall was totally damaged by fire in 1948 and in that fire more than 260 pavilions, terraces, towers, cabinets and houses were burnt. According to the memory of the abbot in Jinshan Temple, Buddha Statues in the Great Buddha’s Hall are huge and full with golden color, thus the joss sticks and candles burning day and night and there are thousands of monks at the most flourishing period of the temple.