Situated in Famen Town of Fufeng County, about 120 kilometers (about 75 miles) west of Xi’an, Famen Temple is renowned for storing the veritable finger bone of Sakyamuni, which is the only real finger bone of Sakyamuni remained in the world. Hence, the Famen Temple is known as the “ancestor of pagoda temples in Central Shaanxi”. The Famen Temple Cultural Scenic Area mainly consists of the Famen Temple, Famen Temple Museum, Namaste Dagoba, Foguang Avenue, and a square.
Famen refers to “gate to Buddhist dharma” (law). Famen Temple, originally called Asoka Temple, was established in the Eastern Han Dynasty (A.D. 25-220) for carrying forward Buddhism. It was converted into an imperial temple in the Sui and Tang dynasties. The pagoda in the temple is a 13-storey brick pagoda. Actually the temple was built because the pagoda was there, and the temple became famous because of the pagoda. The Famen Temple Pagoda keeps the old style of the Ming Dynasty’s brick pagodas, and becomes the symbol of Famen Temple.
In 1987, an underground palace was discovered beneath the foundations of the Famen Temple Pagoda. The underground palace consists of steps, corridors, balconies, passageway, front chamber, central chamber and rear chamber. Totaling 21.2 meters long and covering an area of 31.84 square meters, it is the largest of all underground palaces of pagodas already known today. The way the treasures were placed in the underground palace is mandala of Esoteric Buddhism which is so far the earliest.
Inside the eightfold treasure case, a legendary Sakyamuni finger bone (replica bone) was found. The day of discovery happed to be Sakyamuni’s birthday in the lunar calendar. Later, another three finger bones were found in the white jade coffin, Asoka Stupa and the iron case in the secret niche respectively. The finger bone stored in the white jade coffin is the veritable finger bone and it is the only real finger bone of Sakyamuni remained in the world.
Along with the finger bones of the Sakyamuni Buddha, 2,499 national treasures buried in the Tang Dynasty were excavated after staying in the underground palace for 1,113 years. A 1.96-meter-long tin stick decorated with gold and silver flowers, 12 rings and two Buddhist statues is so far the most ancient and largest Buddhism instrument with the highest level and most excellent skill. Among 27,000 coins, 13 tortoiseshell coins are the earliest unique tortoiseshell in the world. The whole royal tea set is so far the most ancient royal tea tools with the highest level and the most complete one in the world. The 13 royal Mystic Color Ceramics are so far the most ancient mystic color ceramics with tablet verification. Other precious cultural relics found in the underground palace include a kasaya (a patchwork outer vestment worn by a Buddhist monk) woven with golden threads, and an embroidered skirt of Empress Wu Zetian.
The excavation of the finger bone of Sakyamuni and other treasures from this underground palace is regarded as another great archaeological discovery after that of the terracotta warriors and horses of Emperor Qin Shihuang.
Famen Temple Museum, next to the Famen Temple, is a typical Buddhist Art Museum. It houses the precious treasure excavated from the underground palace of the Famen Temple, including gold and silver wares, colored glaze wares, porcelain and silks.
The newly built Namaste Dagoba is another highlight of the Famen Temple Cultural Scenic Area. The Dagoba have both carried forward the Buddhist culture and combined the essence of architecture of both China and the foreign countries: the glass curtain is the product of modern technique; while the Mani-gem and Lotus Terrace represent the style and spirit of traditional Buddhist building. The zen gesture of the Dagoba is meaningful, which can not only present the Buddhist culture, but also symbolize the peace and harmony of the world. At 148 meters, it’s one of the tallest Buddhist pagodas in the world. The finger bone relic of Sakyamuni and thousands of precious treasures which were offered to Buddhist in ancient time were preserved well. In front of the Namaste Dagoba is 1,230-meter-long Foguang Avenue, along which are ten statues of Bodhisattva.
In China, many temples house treasure and artifacts, but the sheer quantity and quality of treasures in the Famen Temple are rare. Now the Famen Temple Cultural Scenic Area has become a famous tourist destination and a Buddhist center for pilgrims from all over the world.