Famen Temple, Xian, China

"The monks and proprietors of Famen Temple in China's northwestern Shaanxi Province, about an hour's drive outside of Xi'an, believe the Buddha has given them the finger. Or four.

Legend has it that after the death of Prince Siddharta (aka the Buddha) around 500 BCE, such was the demand among local kings and chieftains to own a piece of him, that they were ready to go to war to claim his remains, also called relics or sarira (roughly: transient body), which are the tiny bits of bone that survive cremation fires. Fortunately, a wise man intervened and convinced Buddha's unenlightened devotees instead to divide his relics and enshrine them within eight stupas throughout the lands of Buddha's life and teaching (modern north-central India and southern Nepal). Some 200 years later, Emperor Ashoka, in his zeal to spread Buddhist teachings, broke into those stupas and redistributed the relics far and wide ...

According to the men of Famen Temple, Ashoka's eager emissaries ventured to this very site in the Yellow River valley around 300 BCE to spread Buddhist teachings and leave behind an imperial gift of no less than four little bones, said to be finger bones of the Buddha. But as it happened, the Zhou weren't much interested in the Buddha's message, nor were their various successors, and so there's no surviving news of how the relics were regarded and handled, or how they otherwise got on for the next nine hundred eventful years." (read more)

Entrance gateway

Temple complex (more)

Monastery building


Pagoda (1, 2, 3)

Local woman


Monastery prayer hall

Complex building

Modern temple

Bread seller

Local turtle

Finger bones (1, 2)

Fallen pagoda with chamber

Enclosures (1, 2, 3)

Chamber doors

Chamber w/ Buddha's finger

Closeup (more)

Museum painting

Museum painting (more)

On-site museum

Replica of bone holder

New Age shrine

Indian visitors in Tang court


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