大慈寺 (Dàcí Sì) is a large Buddhist temple east of Tianfu Square, and the only major temple in Chengdu which, until lunchtime today, I hadn’t previously visited. It’s not hidden away, but it’s a little off my radar. In fact, the LP China guide doesn’t even mention it. To get there, take 总府路 (Zǒngfǔ Lù; north side of Tianfu Square) east; keeping going past the Foreign Languages Bookshop (other side of the road, so you probably won’t see it) and the intersection with 红星路 (Hóng Xīng Lù), and soon after you’ll stumble across this wall and gate.
This is actually the back gate, and some woman directed me to park back round the corner to the left (as you head back towards Tianfu Square). I parked my bike in a small bike park next to a teashop on 北纱帽街 (Běi Shāmào Jiē; 纱帽 can mean “gauze hat worn by an official in dynastic times” or “public office”), but I was probably meant to go round to the main gate which is on the south side of the temple. That’s east off 北纱帽街; there are signs, but it’s much more straightforward to go in the back gate.
The only problem with going in the back gate is that you’ll miss out on the site map and the info about the temple that are just inside the main gate.
Xuanzang is, of course, the whining, petulant monk from Journey to the West. Just inside the gate is a picture of how the monastery would have looked during the Tang Dynasty.
The place is still a working Buddhist monastery with monks and worshippers. As was the case with the Lantern Festival parade in Fuzhou last year, the faithful are either the elderly or the young and almost no one in between. These are pictures of the Tripitaka Pavilion.
As you can see, the Veda Bodhisattva had one devoted disciple.
Obviously, the plan was to develop the area in the same way it’s been developed around Wenshu Temple, but it appears that the money has run out and the olde Cathay chic was looking rather dilapidated.
There’s a lot of waste ground around that area where there would once have been a thriving community. From what I could tell, it’s probably the haunt of local homeless people. It’s clear that no one’s bothered with the land around the temple for quite some time and if there were plans to develop the whole area, they’ve been abandoned for some time.
I’ve uploaded a selection of full-sized pictures of Daci to my Pictures of Chengdu folder on SkyDrive.