Ba Xian An Temple

East of Xian walls, this is its largest Daoist shrine, built on the site of a temple originally consecrated to the Thunder God, whose presence had been indicated by subterranean rumblings. It was later named Baxian Gong, after the Eight Immortals of Daoist mythology, which were glimpsed here during the Song dynasty. The halls and courtyards of this active temple teem with monks and nuns. Of particular interest are a series of slabs attached to the wall in the main courtyard, inscribed with Daoist literature and illustrations, including extracts from the Neijing, the bible of Daoist yogis and alchemists. Other plaques are etched with curious Daoist designs, including a tablet illustrated with the five mystic symbols denoting the five Daoist sacred mountains. On the left and right of the Lingguan Hall are statues of the guardian being, the White Tiger and Green Dragon, and an effigy of Wang Lingguan, the protector of Daoism. Statues of the Eight Immortals line either side of their hall.

At the rear of the complex, the Doumu Hall is dedicated to the important Daoist Goddess Doumu, also called Doulao, the Queen of the Big Dipper. Also at the rear is the Hall of Master Qiu, where the dowager-Empress Cixi and the Guangxu emperor sought refuge when they fled Beijing's Forbidden City at the end of the Boxer Rebellion in 1990 (see p433). Above the door of the hall is a tablet inscribed with the characters yuqing zbidao,, meaning the Dao of Jade Purity, Cixi's dedication to the abbot. The temple hosts popular religious festivals on the first and fifteenth day of every lunar month. An excellent street market of curios, fakes, and memorabilia is held on Wednesdays and Sundays in the road outside the temple.

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