A morning at Guangxiao Si

(Last Updated On: September 24, 2009)

Guangxiao Si, the Bright Filial Piety Temple is one the oldest in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province’s capital. History places the first temple buildings on the site during the 4th century, before mighty Guangzhou was a city. The compound is significant because Hui Neng, of the Zen Buddhist sect, was a novice at the temple during the 7th century.

That’s what the guidebook says. Guangxiao Si has seen dynasties rise and fall, generations born, live and die, and one of the largest cities of the world spring up around its walls. Much of the temple was destroying during a 17th century fire and rebuilt. It remains timeless place of stillness and beauty.


Fragrant smoke hangs heavy over the grounds. Incense, purchased from the temple or the shops surrounding it, is placed before the Maltreya Buddha.


Women say prayers and leave offerings at the West Iron Pagoda. The ritual continues as they walk around the four-sided iron structure, saying prayers facing north, east and south. Some circle the pagoda, fingers trailing over the cold surface, incense burning in the other.


Chanting surrounds the Mahavira Hall. The faithful line its walls, texts in hand.


A group gathers in front of the structure. Inside a master chants sacred words, his voice heard above the hundreds.


Two monks retreat from the holy chaos for a moment’s respite. I watch them leave, and the assembled worshippers continue with rituals as their ancestors have for generations.

Originally Published: November 24, 2007.

10 thoughts on “A morning at Guangxiao Si

  1. I love it when you show us a glimpse of the world there.

    This struck a chord with me because I’ve been thinking and exploring the issue of faith a lot lately. Do those people do their rituals from habit or tradition, or does belief (even in the skeptic forming ‘information age) get passed down through generations along with the rituals?

    Do they believe? Your use of the words ‘the faithful’… I wonder. Have their numbers dwindled? Do the faithful doubt? Or is doubt more like a luxury enjoyed by more Western cultures, people who have more time to examine and wonder?

    It makes me wonder.

  2. Thank you, Stevo. I enjoy posts like this from you as it gives me a chance to learn a little about the part of the world you’re calling home.

    As always, I like your photos of people. You have the magic touch (or eye, I suppose I should say) when it comes to capturing humans.

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