Dongxiao Palace

Dongxiao Palace is located at Dongxiao Village, Qingshan Lake Street, Lin’an District, Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, nestled beside the Datian Cave at the foot of the main peak of Dadishan. Also known as Dadi Cave Heaven or Tianzhu Temple, Dongxiao Palace is renowned among other Taoist temples such as Baiyun Temple in Beijing, Yongle Palace in Shanxi, and Qingyang Palace in Chengdu. Situated at the foothills of the eastern Tianmu Mountain Range, between the southern Dadishan and Tianzhu Mountains in Zhongtai Township, Yuhang District, it is approximately 18 kilometers northeast of Yuhang Town and 35 kilometers from downtown Hangzhou, marking it as one of the renowned mountains extending from the eastern Tianmu Mountain Range. The main peak of Dadishan, Bailu Mountain, is named after a Taoist who attained enlightenment here and ascended to heaven on a white deer, hence its name. “Smoke ridge connects high traces, pine wind separates Tai Xu.” Surrounded by mountains, Dongxiao Palace boasts captivating landscapes, including lion and elephant guardians at the gate, the return of the spiritual phoenix, the upright Tianzhu pillar, and the serene Dust-Removing Heart. It features intriguing caves like the Datian Cave, Qizhen Cave, and Guiyun Cave, with depths that are unfathomable. Its verdant peaks, ancient bridges, and bamboo groves attract numerous visitors. Figures like Li Bai, Su Shi, Lu You, and Fan Chengda have penned poems in admiration, while individuals like Xu Mai, Guo Wenju, Wu Yun, and Deng Mu have resided here for extended periods. Figures like Li Gang and Zhu Xi have served as “Supervisors of Dongxiao Palace.” However, Dongxiao Palace has faced numerous reconstructions and destructions, and today, only ruins and a few old buildings remain, awaiting redevelopment.

Historical Background of Dongxiao Palace

Dongxiao Palace, this ancient Taoist temple, bears the cultural and traditional heritage of China for millennia. Its establishment can be traced back to the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, a period when China was experiencing flourishing religious and cultural development. The founding of Dongxiao Palace not only signifies the society’s reverence for Taoism at that time but also reflects people’s yearning for spiritual solace and comfort.

Throughout history, Dongxiao Palace underwent several name changes. In the first year of the Hongdao era of the Tang Dynasty (683 AD), Tianzhu Temple emerged under imperial decree, becoming an important site of Taoism. Later, in the second year of the Qianning era (895 AD), after renovations by Qian Miao, it was renamed Tianzhu Palace, indicating its growing significance in the national Taoist community.

However, Dongxiao Palace reached its pinnacle during the Song Dynasty. In the fifth year of the Dazhong Xiangfu era (1012 AD), it once again received imperial favor and was renamed Dongxiao Palace by imperial edict. During this period, it not only became a hub for Taoist activities but also maintained close ties with the imperial court. In the Southern Song Dynasty, many retired prime ministers and ministers were appointed as supervisors of Dongxiao Palace, further enhancing its political status and social influence.

During the Yuan Dynasty, particularly in the reign of Emperor Shizu (1264–1294 AD), Dongxiao Palace underwent multiple expansions, with its scale growing increasingly grandiose, occupying an area of over 80 acres. It became not only the general headquarters of Taoism in the Jiang, Huai, Jing, and Xiang regions but also one of the renowned Taoist temples nationwide. Its reputation spread far and wide, attracting countless Taoist priests and believers for worship and study.

It is noteworthy that the recluse Deng Mu once resided in the Dadishan area of Yuhang, meticulously recording Dongxiao Palace’s landscapes, historic sites, figures, and inscriptions, compiling the six-volume “Dongxiao Tuzhi.” This work not only provides valuable insights into the history and culture of Dongxiao Palace today but also constitutes an important part of Taoist culture. Additionally, Deng Mu compiled the three-volume “Dadi Dongtian Ji,” which was later included in the “Daozang” and became one of the classics of Taoism.

However, history is not always smooth sailing. During the late Yuan and early Ming Dynasties (1341–1368 AD), Dongxiao Palace unfortunately succumbed to warfare and was destroyed by fire. Despite this calamity, Dongxiao Palace did not vanish from the annals of history. In the early years of the Hongwu reign of the Ming Dynasty, it was rebuilt, revitalizing its vigor. Nevertheless, during the Qianlong reign of the Qing Dynasty, Dongxiao Palace encountered the misfortune of destruction by fire once again. Nonetheless, it persisted resiliently in people’s memories, narrating its past glory in the form of ruins.

Today, as we stand before the ruins of Dongxiao Palace, we cannot help but ponder the vicissitudes of history and the passage of time. Though this once glorious Taoist temple no longer resembles its former self, its history and culture still deserve our reverence and study. The story of Dongxiao Palace reminds us that both religion and culture require careful preservation and protection. Only then can we ensure the continuation of these precious historical legacies, adding vibrancy to our lives and spiritual world.

Characteristics of Dongxiao Palace

Dongxiao Palace, with its picturesque scenery and numerous cultural relics, is counted among the thirty-six small cave heavens of Taoism, exuding mystery and nobility. In the Tang Dynasty’s “Records of Famous Mountains in the Fudi District,” it was hailed as the “Dadi Xuangai Cave Heaven,” highlighting not only Dongxiao Palace’s geographical features but also its significant position in Taoist culture.

Dadi Cave Heaven is also listed among the “Seventy-two Blessings of Taoism,” with each spot containing profound Taoist cultural heritage. During the Song Dynasty, when Taoism was highly esteemed, Dongxiao Palace’s reputation soared. In the “Inscriptions of Dongxiao Palace” by Lu You, it was even ranked alongside Chongfu Palace in Mount Song as the “foremost Taoist temples in the world,” showcasing its prestigious status at the time.

Nevertheless, Dongxiao Palace has experienced its share of trials and tribulations throughout history. In the second year of the Zhenghe era (1112 AD), the imperial court granted three hundred Daoists degrees to fund the reconstruction of the dilapidated palace. Unfortunately, due to the rebellion of Fang La, Dongxiao Palace was once again ravaged by war. This destruction dealt a significant blow to the palace.

Fortunately, in the twenty-fifth year of the Shaoxing era (1155 AD), the imperial court provided funds once more for the reconstruction of Dongxiao Palace, restoring its former glory. The rebuilt Dongxiao Palace not only regained its past splendor but also became the leader of Taoist temples nationwide, guiding the development of Taoist culture.

The history of Dongxiao Palace is a saga of the rise and fall of Taoist culture. It bears witness to the prosperity and decline of Taoism and carries the devout beliefs of countless believers. Though

 we may no longer witness the splendor of Dongxiao Palace with our own eyes, its profound cultural heritage and historical imprint continue to evoke a sense of mystery and solemnity.

Historical Anecdotes

Dongxiao Palace, this ancient Taoist temple, established the position of supervisors during the early Xining period of the Northern Song Dynasty, highlighting its importance at the time. With the Southern Song Dynasty’s migration to the south, the management system of Dongxiao Palace also underwent changes. The establishment of ancestral temples within the palace made Dongxiao Palace more standardized, and the system of supervisors continued, albeit with roles transitioning to positions receiving ancestral temple offerings, with individuals appointed annually. It is worth noting that the Southern Song court often appointed retired prime ministers and prominent ministers as supervisors of Dongxiao Palace, reflecting the court’s esteem for Dongxiao Palace and endowing these dignitaries with new roles in religious affairs.

Under the old system of the Northern Song Dynasty, the ancestral temples within the capital city were known as inner ancestral temples. The management and staff of these inner ancestral temples were appointed according to the hierarchy of positions, with former prime ministers, current ministers, and other officials filling the roles, each with their respective duties, forming a hierarchical management system. The official system reaffirmed during the Yuanfeng period did not abolish this ancestral system established by ancestors but rather made it more complete. Individuals in these positions not only enjoyed generous salaries but also received specialized clothing supplies and even meal subsidies for their attendants. This series of treatments gradually became a customary way for the court to honor elderly statesmen and wise individuals.

Emperor Renzong of the Song Dynasty personally wrote edicts, expressing his deep affection and respect for elderly statesmen. He emphasized that for those elderly or ill statesmen who requested retirement, the court would not only grant their requests but also increase their salaries, giving them more respect and preferential treatment. Even if these elderly statesmen behaved improperly during their attendance at court ceremonies, they would not be criticized. This demonstrates the Song court’s high regard and consideration for statesmen, reaching a considerable degree.

However, history’s vicissitudes are relentless. During the Qianlong period of the Qing Dynasty, Dongxiao Palace encountered misfortune once again. The merciless fire turned this once glorious Taoist temple into ashes once more. After the fire, while some buildings of Dongxiao Palace were rebuilt, such as the abbot’s room, the Doumu Hall, and some Taoist residences, its scale and influence could no longer compare to its past glory.

Today, as we stand before the ruins of Dongxiao Palace, we cannot help but lament the ruthlessness of time and the changes in history. Though this once glorious Taoist temple no longer resembles its former self, its history and culture still deserve our reverence and study. The history of Dongxiao Palace is not only a saga of the rise and fall of Taoist culture but also a vivid portrayal of the Chinese nation’s steadfast adherence to and inheritance of traditional culture and religious beliefs. Its destruction and reconstruction have witnessed the tenacity and resilience of the Chinese nation in the river of history.

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