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Long-Lost Legendary Buddhist Temple Found Under Chinese City

Chinese news outlets are reporting the discovery – or rather re-discovery – of an ancient temple which was ‘lost’ nearly a millennium ago. and recently found in one of China’s most thriving metropolises, Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. Like so many Chinese archaeological finds, the temple was discovered as construction crews broke ground on new residential properties. 

Chengdu is a classic Chinese mix of old and new.

Chengdu is a classic Chinese mix of old and new.

So far, the temple’s foundation has been discovered along with several surrounding buildings and roads. The rich history of the Buddhist temple is well-documented in Chinese literature and legends, but years of conflict and natural disaster caused the temple to become destroyed and lost at some point during the thirteenth century.

Archaeologists excavating part of the temple's foundation.

Archaeologists excavating part of the temple’s foundation.

The temple holds a sacred place in Chinese religious folklore. According to legends passed down from the Song dynasty, a monk named Dao Xuan once publicly prayed for rain in front of the temple during a drought. Shortly after, it began to rain, earning the temple its name; the 11,000-square-meter site is known as Fugan Temple, a name which roughly translates to “perceive/feel the blessing/fortune.”

The excavation is still underway.

The excavation is still underway.

Fugan Temple was an active Buddhist center from the Eastern Jin dynasty (317 AD to 589 AD) to the Southern Song dynasty (1127 to 1279). Archaeologists from the Chengdu Cultural Relic Research Institute working on the excavation have discovered over 1000 clay tablets inscribed with Buddhist scriptures as well as several hundred carvings or statues of Buddha and various Bodhisattvas.

A carving unearthed at the Fugan Temple site.

As China continues to urbanize at breakneck speed, more and more elements of ancient Chinese mythology are being re-discovered in the present day. Earlier this year, a cryptid which resembled the mythical Chinese qilin was spotted by a remote cameras in China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. A few months later, odd devices were seen in a set of 7th-century rock carvings in Chongqing which seemed to confirm the long-standing theory that ancient Chinese people developed sophisticated technology long before the rest of the world (as for what happened to it, well…that’s complicated).