Remains of the famous Fugan Temple that was recently discovered in Chengdu, China.

Buried for Almost a Millennium, Archaeologists Recover Over 1,500 Religious Artifacts at Lost Chinese Temple

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A team of archaeologists has uncovered more than 1000 tablets inscribed with Buddhist scriptures and over 500 pieces of stone sculpture, as well as glazed tiles with inscriptions, at the site of a temple that had disappeared almost a millennium ago in China.

The “Divine” Role of Fugan Temple

A team of archaeologists has spent several months excavating a temple that was lost for almost a millennium in southwest China's Sichuan Province, as China.org.cn reports .

The Fugan Temple, located in downtown Chengdu, was a famous temple that lasted from the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317- 420 AD) to the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279 AD). The temple is mentioned by Daoxuan, a famous Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) monk, who recorded that an official religious ceremony was once held in front of the temple for the civilians to pray for rain to end a persistent drought. Interestingly, after the rite was over it rained heavily, a fact that elevated the temple’s prestige in the eyes of thousands of believers.

Because of this miraculous incident, the temple got its name “Fugan”, which means "perceive the blessing." Furthermore, a popular Tang Dynasty poet named Liu Yuxi left a poem to honor and celebrate the temple's renovation, describing its divine character and its important role during that period.

Workers inside an unearthed ditch at the excavation site of the Fugan Temple, Chengdu, China.

Workers inside an unearthed ditch at the excavation site of the Fugan Temple, Chengdu, China. ( XINHUA)

The Temple is Rediscovered

Despite its undeniable glory and significance for the local population, the temple suffered a lot of damage during the later period of the Tang and Song dynasties, especially after the Song emperors began to experience fiscal difficulties. For example, the population’s growth in China had outdistanced economic growth, while military expenses associated with northern border wars had drained China economically, as did the cost of an ever-increasing governmental bureaucracy.

The bureaucracy, moreover, was torn by factions proposing different measures regarding tax reform and land distribution. These reforms failed, as they had during the Han dynasty, and for the same reason: opposition from the largely Confucianist gentry, who put their individual economic interests ahead of the common good. Eventually, the temple became the ultimate victim of that situation and disappeared during the many wars that took place.

Almost a millennium later though, a team of archaeologists excavating the area where the legendary temple was “hiding” all these centuries, uncovered more than 1000 tablets inscribed with Buddhist scriptures and over 500 pieces of stone sculpture as well as glazed tiles with inscriptions. "We have only excavated a part of the temple's area, but already have a glimpse of its past glory," Yi Li, lead director of the excavation project, told the media ; while adding that his team has also discovered the temple's foundation, ruins of surrounding buildings, wells, roads, and ditches.

A stone Bodhisattva head unearthed at the excavation site of the Fugan Temple in Chengdu, China

A stone Bodhisattva head unearthed at the excavation site of the Fugan Temple in Chengdu, China. ( news.cn)

More than 80 Ancient Tombs Found Near the Temple 

Interestingly, during the excavation archaeologists found around 80 ancient tombs dispersed near the temple, dating back to the Shang and Zhou dynasties (1600-256 BC). Additionally, they also unearthed large amounts of household tools, utensils, and building materials dating back to different periods from the Song to Ming dynasties.

Experts and archaeologists are optimistic and suggest that the temple's discovery could significantly contribute to the examination of the spread of Buddhism in China during that time, as Wang Yi, director of the Chengdu Cultural Relic Research Institute told China.org.cn

More than 1,000 tablets inscribed with Buddhist scriptures were found at the site of the famous Fugan temple in Chengdu, China

More than 1,000 tablets inscribed with Buddhist scriptures were found at the site of the famous Fugan temple in Chengdu, China. ( Western China Metropolis Daily )

Top Image: Remains of the famous Fugan Temple that was recently discovered in Chengdu, China. ( XINHUA) Insert: A stone Bodhisattva head unearthed at the excavation site. ( news.cn)

By Theodoros Karasavvas

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