Architectura Sinica

Lingyin Monastery  靈隱寺


  • Lingyin Monastery (English)
  • Lingyinsi (Pinyin)
  • 靈隱寺 (Traditional Chinese)
  • 灵隐寺 (Simplified Chinese)
  • Yunlinsi (Pinyin)
  • 雲林寺 (Traditional Chinese)
  • 云林寺 (Simplified Chinese)


  • Coordinates:
    • Lat. 30.242125° Long. 120.097605°
  • Site Information

    Lingyin Monastery sits at the foot of Mountain Wulin (武林山) next to the West Lake northwest of Hangzhou. Throughout Chinese history, it was one of the most prominent Chan Buddhist institutions in the Jiangnan region. The meaning of the monastery's name is said to be “the location of retreat for immortals” (xianling suoyin 仙靈所隱) (Yang 1986, 368). Its name was briefly changed to Cloud Forest Monastery (Yunlinsi 雲林寺), after the Kangxi emperor visited the monastery and bestowed a plaque with his calligraphy of “Cloud Forest” (雲林) in 1689 (Kangxi 28th year). According to legends recorded in textual sources from the Qing Dynasty, the monastery was founded by an Indian monk, known as Huili (慧理) in Chinese, that can be traced back to 326 (咸和元年 Xianhe 1st year) or 328 (咸和三年 Xianhe 3rd year) in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (Sun and Xu 2006, 1). This interpretation has recently been called into question (Chang Qing 2005, 42). The influential myth of Huili and his monkey may have inspired the emergence of the supernatural monkey hero Sun Wukong (孫悟空) in the folklore novel Journey to the West (Xiyouji 西遊記) (Shahar 1992, 194). Additionally, Lingyin Monastery was also considered the place of origin for the popular folklore legends of the eccentric Chan monk Jigong (濟公) (Lü 2012, 24-27). These legends contribute to the cultural richness of the site.1

    The success of Lingyin Monastery was closely associated with the changing attitudes towards Buddhism at court. In the Northern and Southern dynasties and the subsequent Sui periods, the emperors continued to patronize the monastery, developing new structures and attracting more residential monks. In Tang Dynasty, the main structures of the monastery were largely destroyed during the Huichang suppression (Huichang fanan 會昌法難). Lingyin Monastery was at its height under the rule of King Zhongyi of the Wuyue Kingdom (吳越忠懿王), who added nine multi-storied buildings and eighteen pavilions (Zhao and Huang 2016, 57-58). In the Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasties, Lingyin Monastery was supported by the imperial rulers and hosted large numbers of visitors and monks. However, due to warfare and natural disasters, including fire and lightning, it also suffered serious damage in 1359, 1370, 1430, 1569, and, most devastatingly, in 1640 (Sun and Xu 2006, 14). Starting in the sixth year of the Qing Shunzhi reign period (1649), the Monk Jude (具德) supervised the resurrection the monastery, and after eighteen years of construction it reached an unprecedented scale. Visitors at the time claimed the monastery had not been this prosperous since its initial foundation (Sun and Xu, 2006, 3). Both the Kangxi and Qianlong Emperors frequently visited the monastery during their various inspection tours in Jiangnan, leaving numerous poems and works of calligraphy, and generating other legends along the way (Shen 2006, 1-25). These historic artifacts further elevated the cultural significance and national fame of Lingyin Monastery.2

    After undergoing substantial destruction during the long years of military conflict, natural disasters, and domestic persecutions from the Late Qing reign through the Cultural Revolution, Lingyin Monastery reopened to the public in 1970. The Communist government sponsored two large projects of restoration and reconstruction, in 1975 and 1987, respectively. Following the remains from the late Qing dynasty, the monastery was expanded to cover approximately 87,000 square meters (Shi 1995, 387). The Lingyinsi official website describes the modern Lingyin Monastery as being modeled on the seven-hall arrangement, which is thought to be the most common in Chan monasteries of Southern Song China (Steinhardt 2019, 172; Lingyinsi official website). The five main buildings sitting along the central axis are the Celestial Kings Hall (Tianwangdian 天王殿)—bearing the function of the Mountain Gate (Shanmen 山門), the Daxiongbao Hall (Daxiongbaodian 大雄寶殿) or the Mahavira Treasure Hall, the Bhaisajyaguru Hall (Yaoshidian 藥師殿), the sutra repository tower (zangjinglou 藏經樓) which also contains a dharma hall (fatang 法堂), and Huayan Hall (Huayandian 華嚴殿). Among these, the first three halls largely remained in the same position as their Qing predecessors. As no historic timber structure survives, the Bhaisajyaguru Hall was completely reconstructed in 1991 (Lingyinsi website). At 33.8 meters high, the Daxiongbao Hall is the tallest hall in the monastery and has a hipped roof with three sets of eaves. This building experienced three major restorations in 1952 – 1955, 1975 – 1980, and most recently in 2015 - 2016 (Xia and Xia 2018, 27-30). Inside, the current gilt wooden sculpture of the Gautama Buddha was created in 1956 following Tang dynasty style (Shi 1995, 386). Additionally, between November 2000 and October 2002, the sutra tower and Huayan Hall were both new structures added to recreate the central axis in this seven-hall plan. The Arhats’ Hall (Luohantang 羅漢堂), also built in 2002, faces the west side of the courtyard in front of the Daxiongbao Hall (Zhejiangsheng Renmin Zhengfu Website). Other important structures in the monastery include two twin stone pagodas (shita 石塔) in front of the Daxiongbao Hall, and two twin stone sutra (dharani) pillars (jingchuang 經幢) made in 969 standing next to the Celestial Kings Hall (Zhongguo wenwuju 2010, 26).3




    Dynasty Founded in the Eastern Jin Dynasty 4

    External Links

    Works Cited

    Any information without attribution has been created following the editorial guidelines.

    • 1 楊. 1986. 中國名勝詞典, 368.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 孙. 2006. 灵隐寺志, 1.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 国家文物局. 2010. 中国文物地图集·浙江分册, 26.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; SHAHAR. 06/1992. The Lingyin Si Monkey Disciples and The Origins of Sun Wukong, 194.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 吕. DECEMBER 2012. 济公形象的演变及其文化阐释, 24-27.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
    • 2 孙. 2006. 灵隐寺志, 3, 14.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 赵. 2016-09-15. 试论唐五代至近现代灵隐寺建筑布局的演变, 57-58.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 沈. 2006. 续修云林寺志, 1-25.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
    • 3 施. 1995. 西湖志, 386-387.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; STEINHARDT. 2019. Chinese architecture: a history, 172.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 夏. JAN 2018. G20杭州峰会灵隐寺大雄宝殿建筑修缮介绍, 27-30.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 2012-08-14. 灵隐寺Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record; 国家文物局. 2010. 中国文物地图集·浙江分册, 26.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record
    • 4 WILKINSON. 2000. Chinese History: A Manual, 11.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record

    Contains artifact(s) (2)

    Date range

    How to Cite This Entry

    Song Qisen, “Lingyin Monastery 靈隱寺 ” in Architectura Sinica last modified April 30, 2020,


    Song Qisen, “Lingyin Monastery 靈隱寺 .” In Architectura Sinica, edited by Tracy Miller. Entry published 2020-04-30-15:00.

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    Entry Title: Lingyin Monastery 靈隱寺

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    • Tracy Miller, editor, Architectura Sinica
    • Song Qisen, entry contributor, “Lingyin Monastery 靈隱寺

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    • Initial research 2020 by Song Qisen
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