In the ancient city of Datong, Shanxi is the Huayan Monastery. It was built during the Liao Dynasty (1038) covering an area of 66,000 square meters. Due to partial destruction during the later years of Liao Dynasty, it was rebuilt during the Jin and Yuan Dynasties. Further repairs were made in the Ming Dynasty and also at the same time separated to an upper section and lower section according to their respective ground level. It is during the repairs done in Qing Dynasty that the Monastery was scaled down.
According to records the Huayan Sect of Buddhism was exceptionally popular during the Liao Dynasty. The emperor Daozong wrote 10 volumes on Buddhism and carved the Khitan scriptures into 579 sets. They were placed in the Bhagavad (referring to Sakyamuni Buddha) Hall.
Bhagavad Sutra Hall is a typical architect of Liao Dynasty stylish cubicles for holding scriptures built in 1038. It also houses 31 sculptures of Liao Dynasty. The three main statues represents the past, present and future Buddhas.
Rarely, statues were made with smiles exposing teeth. Here is one of smiling Bodhisattva, “Venus of the East”. Notice the carving of the flow of the clothes and body curves are quite exquisite.
The Main Hall shows a typical Liao architectural building. It was first build in 1062 and later rebuilt in 1142 by Jin Dynasty.
Inside the Main Hall is the Buddhas of the five directions. They are 3.1 meters tall and pedestals are 2.9 meters. They were built during 1426 to 1435 during the Ming Dynasty
Lined against the wall on both sides are statues of 20 celestial beings of heaven.
The Huayan Pagoda is also made of only wood. No metal nails nor any cement. It stood 43 meters high only second tallest to the Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County.
Under the Huayan Pagoda is a bronze hall constructed with 100 tons of bronze. It contains the consecrated remnants of the eminent monk Hui Ming, of Huayan during the Yuan Dynasty. Buddhas of four directions and many small carvings of Buddhas on the walls is the other reason for naming it the Underground Bronze Hall of Thousands of Buddhas.