Hall of Four Heavenly Kings

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Hall of Four Heavenly Kings
Pingyao Zhenguo Si 2013.08.26 15-19-03.jpg
The Four Heavenly Kings Hall at Zhenguo Temple, in Pingyao County, Shanxi, China.
Traditional Chinese 殿
Simplified Chinese 殿
Literal meaning Hall of Four Heavenly Kings
The Four Heavenly Kings Hall at Guangfu Temple, in Shanghai.

The Hall of Four Heavenly Kings or Four Heavenly Kings Hall (Chinese: 天王殿; pinyin: Tiānwángdiàn), referred to as Hall of Heavenly Kings, is the first important hall inside shanmen (mount gate) in Chinese Pure Land Buddhist temples and Chan Buddhist temples and is named due to the Four Heavenly Kings statues enshrined in the hall.[1]

Maitreya Buddha is enshrined in the hall of Heavenly King and at the back of his statue is a statue of Skanda Bodhisattva facing the northern Mahavira Hall. In Buddhism, the Maitreya Buddha, also the future Buddha is Sakyamuni's successor. In the history of Chinese Buddhism, Maitreya Buddha has the handsome image in which he wears coronet on his head and yingluo (瓔珞) on his body and his hands pose in mudras. According to Song-dynasty Biographies of Eminent Monks (zh) (《宋高僧傳》; Sung kao-seng chuan), in the Later Liang Dynasty (907-923), there was a fat and big-stomached monk named "Qici" (契此和尚) in Fenghua of Mingzhou (now Zhejiang). Carrying a sack on his shoulder, he always begged in the markets and streets, laughing. So local people called him "The Sack Monk" (布袋和尚). When he reached his Parinirvana, he left a Buddhist Gatha "Maitreya, the true Maitreya, has thousands of hundreds of millions of manifestations, often instructing people of their time, even when they themselves do not recognize him." (彌勒真彌勒,分身百千億,時時示世人,世人總不識。) So he was seen as the manifestation of Maitreya Buddha. Since then, in Chinese Buddhist temples, Maitreya statues were shaped into a big fat monk's image with a big head and ears, laughing with his upper body exposed and cross-legged.

The Skanda Bodhisattva behind him is the Dharmapalass of Buddhist temples. As with Maitreya Buddha, the Skanda Bodhisattva's image has changed into that of a handsome ancient Chinese general who wore armors, held vajra in hand.

Four Heavenly Kings' statues are enshrined in the left and right side of the Four Heavenly Kings Hall. There are the eastern Dhṛtarāṣṭra (持國天王; Dhṛtarāṣṭra wears white clothes and armor and has pipa, a Chinese plucked string musical instrument, in his hand), the southern Virūḍhaka (增長天王; Virūḍhaka wears blue clothes with a sword in his hand), the western Virūpākṣa (廣目天王; Virūpākṣa wears red clothes with a dragon or a snake wrapped around his arm), and the northern Vaiśravaṇa (多聞天王; Vaiśravaṇa wears green clothes with a precious umbrella in his right hand and a silver sacred mouse in his left hand). The Four Heavenly Kings are said to live in Mount Meru and their task is to protect the world in their direction respectively.[2][3]


  1. Zi Yan (2012-08-01). Famous Temples in China. Beijing: Time Publishing and Media Co., Ltd. pp. 27–28. ISBN 978-7-5461-3146-7. 
  2. Wei Ran (2012-06-01). Buddhist Buildings. Beijing: China Architecture & Building Press. ISBN 9787112142880. 
  3. Han Xin (2006-04-01). Well-Known Temples of China. Shanghai: The Eastern Publishing Co. Ltd. ISBN 7506024772. 

Further reading

  • Wang Guixiang (2016-06-17). 《中国汉传佛教建筑史——佛寺的建造、分布与寺院格局、建筑类型及其变迁》 [The History of Chinese Buddhist Temples] (in 中文). Beijing: Tsinghua University Press. ISBN 9787302427056. 
  • Zhang Yuhuan (2014-06-01). 《图解中国佛教建筑、寺院系列》 (in 中文). Beijing: Contemporary China Publishing House. ISBN 9787515401188. 

External links

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