Since the beginning of this column, we have been to places representing four out of the five old districts of Shenyang, and today it is the turn of Huanggu District. Huanggu is located in the northwestern part of the city. It cannot compete with the other four when it comes to industry and commerce, but it has one strong point – a good number of universities and colleges, plus Liaoning Experiment School, the long-time best high school in Shenyang. Regarding urban development, Huanggu also experienced a big change in its landscape, but compared with the other four, the change is less dramatic. Therefore, many old buildings and communities are preserved here. But what we are going to talk about is even older. It is actually a treasure located in the Tawan region of Huanggu — the Shenyang Stupa, whose full name is literally Stainless Shining Sarira Stupa.
The stupa was built in 1044. At that time, this land belonged to the territory of the Qidan people, a major northern tribe originally dwelling here and believed to be the ancestor of the Manchurians. They established the Liao Dynasty, equivalent to the Song Dynasty of the Chinese people. The Qidan people imported Buddhism as their major religion. Legend says there once was an endless heavy windstorm in the place Shenyang now stands which made people suffer tremendously. One day, a monk passed by and people implored him to help. After some investigation, the monk ascertained that the windstorm was caused by an evil yellow dragon whose head rested where Shenyang’s Tawan region is today. The monk performed a ritual at the place to exorcise the yellow dragon, thereby stopping the catastrophe. In order to show their gratitude, people collected money to build a temple named Huilong Temple for the monk, who agreed to stay. After the monk passed away, his students built this Dagoba to keep the 1548 relics made from his remains.
All of this is just a legend. When the government refurbished the Stupa in 1985, a stele was unearthed telling the true story, which is much simpler than the legend. The Stupa was collectively built by local Qidan people simply for worshiping the Buddha, and the donation of each of them was recorded on the stele. The Huilong Temple was actually built much later during the Qing Dynasty, but it no longer exists. The temple today bearing the same name is merely a replica built in the modern age.
The Stupa is a delicate and beautiful octagonal architecture with 13 floors and a height of 34 meters. On each of its eight sides, the engraving of a different Buddha can be found. Built up by flashed bricks and brown bricks, the Stupa is hollow inside and its inner room is divided vertically into Earth Hall, Middle Hall, and Heaven Hall. For many years, countless treasures were kept in it, such as golden Buddha statues, holy relics, scrolls, and porcelain objects, and the walls of the Earth Hall were painted with fine frescoes. These treasures are now exhibited in the nearby museum. Around the Stupa is a beautiful park famous for its sunset views upon the lotus lake. This vista was chosen as one of eight Shenyang scenes by ancient intellectuals: they called it Sunset Tawan.
What is even more interesting is that Shenyang Government has upgraded Tawan Park by moving 102 ancient steles from the Shenyang North Pagoda there, and the relocated Tawan Park is open to the public and a good place for families to have fun and enjoy a mixed view with the Stupa, steles, the lotus lake, and sunset.
How to find the Stupa?
- In Huanggu District;
- On the very northwestern corner of Shenyang’s first Ring Road, there is a Carrefour. If you find this Carrefour, it will be hard to miss the Stupa.
- With the thick tree tops, lotus lake, and green land, the Tawan Park is a good place for the whole family to spend a relaxing afternoon. Seeing the sun set upon the lotus lake makes for a spectacular view.
About the next episode:
As we have already come to Huanggu District, why not stay here longer and see some interesting markets nearby the Stupa Park?
Written by Buke Wang