Guangren Lama Temple (广仁寺)

Xi’an has a lot of temples, and we visited several of them. The Guangren Temple is the only Tibetan Lama temple in the city. Its draw is that it holds eight treasures, six inscription boards, and six “wonder trees”, among other things.

Guangren Temple was built in the early 1700s during the Qing Dynasty. Now it is a popular tourist attraction as well as a temple. Aside from being the only Tibetan temple in the city, its draw is the collection of relics kept on display inside its walls.

One such relic is the Forever Illuminating Lamp, a flame that is supposed to burn forever. The last time I saw such a flame was in Yazd – one of the Zoroastrian eternal flames. That one had been burning since the 70s, this one has supposedly been kept alight for 300 years.

Many of these relics would have money stuffed into them. It’s typical for people to leave gifts for the “gods” in this way, hoping that by doing so they will be gifted with wealth in return. It’s always felt like a contradiction to me – giving away your money in an attempt to make more.

I recognised some of the trappings of the temple from my time in Lhasa. Spinning prayer wheels, colourful flags, prayers tied to walls. It still felt a little more commercial than the temples in Lhasa, but then they are catering to a crowd of Han tourists rather than local Tibetans.

When we got to the far end of the temple my partner was approached by a “deaf” beggar. She held a sign explaining her situation. This is a known scam in China, and they’ll use temples to try and make people feel extra guilty. We avoided giving them any money.

On the way out of the temple we had to swing by the toilet. We learned that the cost of toilet paper in this temple was a little bit high – you had to give them your face…

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