Li Chunfeng Taoist Temple

Li Chunfeng (李淳风) was a Chinese astronomer, mathematician, historian and politician who lived during the Tang Dynasty. He is known for creating a new calendar that more accurately predicted the positions of the planets. He died in Chang’An (modern day Xi’an), and a temple was built to commemorate both him and his Taoist beliefs.

We took some time to visit the temple on the outskirts of Xi’An. This particular temple was relatively hidden away and didn’t feel like a tourist attraction as most Buddhist temples do. It was quiet, and the few visitors that we saw were there to worship.

The temple is built into the side of a hill, with all the shrines next to each other in a single line. Also built into the walls were storage areas for cleaning supplies. A few people living at the temple would clean and maintain the temple’s shrines.

The atmosphere at the temple was serene. Xi’An is the home of Taoism, where it all started, and the people here take it very seriously. They don’t have “gods”, they have Immortals, people who achieved immortality by leading good lives and serve as a model for those who follow the religion. I’m not sure if Li Chunfeng is an Immortal, but here he is certainly a model for one way to live your life.

I noticed that unlike Buddhist temples in China, you weren’t asked for money at every place you can pray – a sign the religion isn’t there to take from people. However at the last prayer space, a man rushed over to us and encouraged us to give money to pray.

I noticed a Tibetan singing bowl at this spot, and asked the man if he could play. He hit the bowl and it echoed through the temple, but he didn’t follow up by making it resonate. I asked him if I could show him how to play, but he kept insisting we donate money so we decided to leave.

Aside from that one encounter it was an interesting experience. Taoism is taken very seriously in Xi’An, and feels like more of a religion for the people, rather than a religion that needs the people. The Tao Te Ching is a book that has had a huge influence on my world view, so it is interesting to see and learn about the religion that spawned from the philosophy.

It’s also interesting to see a man so revered for his mathematical and astronomical achievements. His influence may not be felt by many today, but he was pivotal in ensuring mathematical texts produced during the Tang Dynasty were accurate and correct.

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