Around the Main Hall

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on May 10, 2016.)

Kneelers and instruments in front of main altar, Hong Fa Temple, Shenzhen

In addition to the main altar, there are plenty of other things to see inside the main hall.

Usually there are percussion instruments in front of the altar: drums, bells, and a large "wooden fish" sounding block. These are used to accompany the chanting during ceremonies. Furniture also includes kneelers and sometimes chairs for the participants.

Along either side of the hall may be seated 18 figures (usually nine to a side); these are the 18 Arhats, whom we've discussed before. They seem to be listening to the Buddha.

In front of the altar, or in the front corners, there may be two guardian figures. They could be Weituo (also seen in the Four Kings' Hall) and Qielan (also called Guanyu); or they could be Shakra (Indra) and Brahma, two Hindu gods. (These latter two may also be found in a group of 20 or 24 "heavenly kings" in place of the 18 Arhats.)

If the bodhisattvas Samantabhadra (Puxian) on his elephant and Manjushri (Wenshu) on a lion are not found on the main altar, they may well be in the back corners of the hall. Also along the back wall may be patriarchs (especially in Chan temples) or other bodhisattvas.

Now we are standing behind the altar facing the back door. As we turn around--that is, facing the back of the wall behind the altar again--we may see a wondrous sight. Many temples will have an enormous statue of the Thousand-armed Guanyin. Others may have an incredible array of figures in something called a "Haidao (Sea Island) Guanyin," a scene so vast it cannot be taken in at a single glance (or photo!).

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