Dharma Gate Monastery

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  • Chinese/Japanese: 法門寺 (Famensi / Houmonji)

The Dharma Gate Monastery is a prominent and ancient Buddhist temple in China.

It is sometimes purported to have been founded in the 3rd century BCE, around the time of the Indian king & great patron of Buddhism Ashoka, though the earliest records of the temple date to 555; texts indicate that a regional ruler worshiped at the temple at that time.

The temple is famous for its possession of a supposed relic of the historical Buddha, a finger bone originally exhibited in procession once every thirty years. It was last displayed in this manner in 873, however, as the Tang Dynasty grew so weak, and financially wanting, by 903 (the next time it would have been shown) that the ceremony was discontinued; it was never re-established in the ensuing centuries.

The temple's stone pagoda was severely damaged in an earthquake in 1569, but was rebuilt. In 1981, another earthquake caused half of the temple's stone pagoda to fall away, revealing a hidden storage area containing various treasures from the Silk Road trade. The pagoda has since been restored.


  • Valerie Hansen, The Open Empire, New York: W.W. Norton & Company (2000), 238, 242-243.
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