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Famen Temple

The information contained here are subject to change. Chinese History Digest is not responsible or liable if any changes should occur. If you can read Chinese, you could also visit the official website of the Famen Monastery for the latest information.

Opening Hours

March - November: 8.30am - 7pm
December - February: 9am - 6pm

Entrance Ticket Prices

March - November: 100 yuan
December - February: 90 yuan

The Famen Temple (a.k.a. Famen Monastery, Famen Si in Chinese) is located 120km west of the city of Xi'an in Shaanxi province. The historic roots of this Buddhist temple reach back to the time of the Han dynasty. These days, the temple is mostly known for the finger bone relic of the Buddha that is kept there. However, Famen Temple played a major role in Chinese history and even stirred up considerable upheaval during a period of the Tang dynasty when Buddhism came under attack. The famous temple is nowadays only a part of a much larger complex that has been named as the Famen Temple Cultural Scenic Area since 2009. The entire scenic area can be roughly divided into four parts, the Temple Gate Square, Foguang Avenue, the historic Famen Monastery and the modern Namaste Dagoba.

view of the Heart-Pacifying Pools and the Prajna Gate at the Famen Temple Cultural Scenic Areaview of the Heart-Pacifying Pools and the Prajna Gate at the Famen Temple Cultural Scenic AreaThe Temple Gate Square (Shanmen Square) is the first area visitors will see after entering the Famen Temple Cultural Scenic Area. Distributed throughout its vast surface area of 150,000 square meters are visitor centers and tourist shops, lecture halls, hotels, restaurants, tea houses and other supporting service infrastructure. On the way north from this magnificent square towards Foguang Avenue, visitors will pass through four gates in succession, the first of which is Foguang Gate. Behind this first gate are two pools of water which are known as the "Heart-Pacifying Pools". The Prajna Gate, Bodhi Gate and Perfect Wisdom Gate (a.k.a. Gate of Sunyata) then follow next on the way.

The 1230-meter-long and 108-meter-wide Foguang Avenue divides the Famen Temple Cultural Scenic Area into a Western and Eastern Section. Along its main road, visitors will see ten Bodhisattva statues. The story of the Buddha from birth to enlightenment is told on yellow columns along the Eastern Section and the advancement of Buddhism since Sakyamuni's earthly passing is told along the Western Section. Foguang Avenue ends in the north in front of the 148-meter-tall Namaste Dagoba. This modern Buddhist stupa was designed by the same architect that had previously also designed the Taipei 101 building (a.k.a. the Taipei World Financial Center). Since the end of its three-year construction period in 2009, the Namaste Dagoba is unofficially regarded as the tallest Buddhist stupa in the world.

poster showing the finger bone of the Buddha at Famen Temple near Xi'anposter showing the finger bone of the Buddha at Famen Temple near Xi'anThe historic part of Famen Si lies to the east of the northern part of Foguang Avenue. Covering an area of about 30,000 square meters, the historic temple grounds with their ancient halls surrounded by verdant corridors stretch around a 13-tiered octagonal pagoda. Tourists can enter the temple compound through the main gate that stands to the south of the pagoda. Some of the important structures inside the temple are the main hall, treasure pavilion, drum tower, treasure tower as well as various other halls.

The main draw and claim to fame of the Famen Monastery is undoubtedly that it has stored a veritable finger bone of the Sakyamuni Buddha for millenia. This extraordinarily famous Buddhist relic was supposedly a part of the Buddha's middle finger of his left hand. However, it is not known with any certainty how this relic found its way to this remote temple. According to legend, it was bestowed to the temple by the Indian Emperor Ashoka around 300 BC.

More than a thousand years later, Buddhism reached its peak popularity and influence in China during the time of the Tang dynasty. In AD 874 at a time when the Tang dynasty was already in decline, the finger bone relic was ceremoniously enshrined at the Famen Monastery in an underground palace underneath the abovementioned pagoda tower. The entrance to this underground palace was eventually blocked sometime after that, perhaps to protect the enshrined relics and treasures from being vandalized and/or plundered during the tumultuous times that followed in Chinese history. Over the next 1000 years, all factual knowledge of the existence of an underground palace faded away but the story persisted as a myth.

view outside the main gate of the historic part of the Famen Monasteryview outside the main gate of the historic part of the Famen MonasteryOn the 24th of August 1981, a portion of the pagoda that stands on top of the underground palace collapsed after heavy rains. Reconstruction efforts had already begun six years later when archeologists accidentally discovered that hidden chamber on the 3rd of April 1987. Thorough excavation of the chamber yielded a treasure trove of 2499 relics with the Buddha's finger bone the most important among them.

The discovered Buddhist relics include 104 Buddhist figurines as well as hundreds of volumes of Buddhist scriptures. Hundreds of ancient textiles out of silk were found as well with the embroidered skirt of the only Chinese Empress Wu Zetian the most valuable piece among them. Furthermore, valuable historic relics of porcelain and glass as well as exquisite pieces of gold and silverware were also included among the hidden treasures of the underground palace. The 121 discovered gold and silver articles had all been specifically made for the imperial family at specialized imperial workshops. Perhaps the most remarkable piece among them is a gilt silver tea set that is believed to be the earliest-made royal tea set that was ever discovered. Many of all these relics and treasures are now exhibited at the Famen Temple Museum.

The finger bone relic is only displayed on certain days however. It is safely kept at the underground sanctum of the modern Namaste Dagoba where it had been enshrined on the 9th of May 2009. From there, it is brought up to the first floor of this futuristic-looking Buddhist stupa on the 1st day and 15th day of each lunar month as well as on Saturdays and Sundays. It has also been displayed abroad four times in its history to give Buddhists in Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea a chance to worship and venerate this valuable and unique relic.

the modern Namaste Dagoba at the Famen Temple Cultural Scenic Area at sunrisethe modern Namaste Dagoba at the Famen Temple Cultural Scenic Area at sunrise

How to get to the Famen Temple near Xi'an?

Address: Famen Temple (120km west of Xi'an), Fufeng County, Baoji, Shaanxi province, China
Tel.Nr.: +86 917 525 4002
Air: Xi'an Xianyang International Airport (XIY)
Train: Xi'an Railway Station, Xi'an North Railway Station, Xi'an South Railway Station
Bus: direct tourist bus from Xi'an West Bus Station (9am, 11.40am, 4.30pm) OR tourist bus from the Tang Paradise Theme Park (West Gate) between 8am - 10.30am OR long-distance bus from Xi'an West Bus Station to Fufeng County and take a taxi from there

Recommended Hotel near the Famen Monastery

The hotel that is introduced in detail below is located inside the Famen Temple Cultural Scenic Area, so it is right next to all the places of interest that are mentioned above on this page. The provided information was thoroughly researched from various hotel booking websites. Chinese History Digest is not responsible if any information regarding the provided services and amenities might have changed.

Famen Temple Hotel

partial view of the facade of the Famen Temple Hotel in the eveningThe Famen Temple Hotel is about a two-hour drive away from the Xi'an Xianyang International Airport and free parking is available. The hotel can also arrange pickup from the airport upon request. This 3-star hotel provides upscale Buddhist-style accommodations right next to the Famen Temple. Since the Famen Temple Cultural Scenic Area is located in a fairly remote area at a considerable distance from Xi'an, it would be ideal to stay at this hotel for two nights. In this way, you could start your visit of the temple area early and fully refreshed on the 2nd day before the tour groups from Xi'an have even arrived. That could also be the reason why the Famen Temple Hotel doesn't provide breakfast. After all, fasting is a part of Buddhist culture and eating your first meal of the day late around noon at the hotel's Chinese vegetarian restaurant (perhaps followed by a nap in your room) would spare you the stress of having to visit the temple's attractions alongside hectic Chinese tour groups on day trips from Xi'an.

The Buddhism-themed rooms of the Famen Temple Hotel provide both air-conditioning and heating. Guests will receive a welcome gift and can avail themselves of free internet access (both wired and Wi-Fi). All rooms have a seating area and are equipped with flat-screen cable TV, an in-room safe and a minibar. The hotel has smoking areas and a dedicated non-smoking floor. Laundry service (including dry cleaning) and luggage storage are available. There are shops at the property including a food store with a limited selection of items. Guests of the Famen Temple Hotel have access to a fitness center, a basketball court and table tennis room. They can also rent bicycles at the hotel. For relaxation, the hotel has a library, a karaoke and game room and guests can even book a massage after a tiring day with lots of walking.

0.2 miles away

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