This is one of a what will hopefully be a set of posts, putting up some interesting examples of village temple art from the Xuan-Da area.
The above and below are some photos from the interior of a temple located in Yangyuan County 陽原縣, as usual I’m not going to say where precisely. The temple is split into a larger south-facing room dedicated to Ksitigarbha 地藏 and the Ten Yamas 十閻王, and a smaller north-facing room dedicated to Avalokiteshvara/Guanyin. The frescoes in the northern shrine room depict scenes from the Lotus Sutra, specifically a section called the Universal Gateway 普門品. You can read the whole chapter (and the whole sutra) at City of 10,000 Buddhas here. The order of the frescoes is different from that in the versions I’ve found online; I’ve re-arranged the cartouches to fit the present versions, since it doesn’t seem like it really matters. There are also a few sections which don’t have visible cartouches, and since the order is mixed up I wasn’t sure where to put these. They’re at the bottom. The style looks late 18th or 19th century to me.
And at this time, the Limitless-Intention Bodhisattva began to chant, asking:
“Oh venerable master in all your resplendent forms, once again I ask you, for what reason do you O Buddha, take the name Hears-The-Sounds-Of-The-World (Avalokiteshvara)?
Then the venerable one provided with the resplendent forms, chanted an answer to the Limitless-Intention Bodhisattva. “I listen and hear the sound of actions, and benevolently respond to all quarters.
My abundant determination is as deep as a sea, through the eras I do not change my intention. Relying on more than one hundred billion Buddhas, I make this great and pure vow.
I will explain it simply to you: If you can hear my name and see my form, then your mind will feel empty, for my name and form can extinguish all bitterness.
Let us suppose that due to evil intentions, you have fallen into a great pit of fire – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, then pit of fire will transform into a pool of water.
Or if you are afloat on a great sea, beset by dragons, fish, and all manner of devils – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and those waves will not be able to drown you.
Or if upon the peak of Sumeru, you are pushed off by someone and fall – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and you will travel as the sun across the emptiness.
Or if you are thrust by someone evil, and fall from the Vajra Mountain – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and you cannot be diminished even by a single hair.
Or if you happen to be encircled by a angry thieves, each holding a blade to wound you – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and their hearts will immediately become benevolent.
Or if you suffer at the hands of a king, and facing execution hope for a long life – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and the executioner’s blade will be immediately shattered to pieces.
Or if you are shut away in a cangue, with your hands and feet in shackles – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and you will receive glad liberation.
If you are cursed or poisoned in any way, by someone who wishes to harm you – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and the harm will immediately rebound upon that person.
Or if you meet an evil yaksha, or a poisonous dragon or any other demon – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and at all times they will not dare harm you.
If you are encircled by evil beasts, with sharp teeth and claws so fearsome – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and you will be able to rapidly flee without any obstructions.
If you meet with vipers and scorpions, with evil vapors, smoke and fire – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and immediately hearing the sound they will flee back from where they came.
Amids clouds and the rumble of thunder and striking of lighting, as hail falls and a great rain pours down – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and in response right at that moment the clouds will all vanish and clear away.
When all sentient beings are in suffering and difficulty, when limitless bitterness approaches you – through the power of the resplendent wisdom of Hears-The-Sounds, all the suffering of this world can be escaped.”
The chant keeps going. Here are a few more in which the cartouche isn’t visible.
The below are from the south-facing part of the shrine room, depicting the stalactites of hell. The style of blue-painted “hanging carvings” 懸塑 here is quite unique, and I’m not sure of a date. The only direct parallels I’m aware of are the “Reverse-Facing Guanyin” 倒坐觀音 from the Longxing Monastery 隆興寺 in southern Hebei, and the images called “Five Hundred Arhats Crossing a River” 五百羅漢渡江 from the Monastery of the Manjushri Image at Five-Peak Mountain in Shanxi 五台山殊像寺.