City of Ten Thousand Buddhas

City of Ten Thousand Buddhas

The mountain gate to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
Basic information
Location 2001 Talmage Road, Ukiah, California 95482
Affiliation Guiyang Ch'an
Country United States
Architectural description
Founder Hsuan Hua
Completed 1974
An aerial view of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

The City Of Ten Thousand Buddhas (Chinese: 萬佛聖城; pinyin: Wànfó Shèngchéng, Vietnamese: Chùa Vạn Phật Thánh Thành) is an international Buddhist community and monastery founded by Hsuan Hua, an important figure in Western Buddhism. It is one of the first Chinese Zen Buddhist temples in the United States, and one of the largest Buddhist communities in the Western Hemisphere.

The city is situated in Talmage, Mendocino County, California about 2 miles (3.2 km) east of Ukiah, and 110 miles (180 km) north of San Francisco. It was one of the first Buddhist monasteries built in the United States. The temple follows the Guiyang Ch'an School, one of the five houses of classical Chinese Ch'an. The city is noted for its close adherence to the vinaya, the austere traditional Buddhist monastic code.


The Dharma Realm Buddhist Association purchased the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas site in 1974 and established an international center there by 1976.[1]

Originally the site housed the Mendocino State Hospital, founded in 1889. There were over seventy large buildings, over two thousand rooms of various sizes, three gymnasiums, a fire station, a swimming pool, a refuse incinerator, fire hydrants, and various other facilities. A paved road wound its way through the complex, lined with tall street lamps and trees over a hundred years old. The connections for electricity and pipes for water, heating, and air conditioning were all underground. Both the architectural design and the materials used for the buildings were state of the art. The heating and air conditioning were centrally controlled.

Considering the natural surroundings to be ideal for cultivation, Hsuan Hua visited the valley three times and negotiated with the seller many times. He wanted to establish a center for propagating the Buddhadharma throughout the world and for introducing the Buddhist teachings, which originated in the East, to the Western world. Hsuan Hua planned to create a major center for world Buddhism, and an international orthodox monastery for the purpose of elevating moral standards and raising people's awareness.

The city comprises 488 acres (2 km2) of land, of which 80 acres (0.3 km2) are developed. The rest of the land includes meadows, orchards, and forests. Large institutional buildings and smaller residential houses are scattered over the west side of the campus. The main Buddha hall, monastic facilities, educational institutes, administrative offices, the main kitchen and dining hall, Jyun Kang Vegetarian Restaurant, and supporting structures are all located in this complex.

In 2009, the walls of the Long Life Hall were subject to structural damage caused by an electrical fire. However, no major damage occurred to the altar, artwork or statues inside the hall.[2]

Sites of interest

The Jeweled Hall of 10,000 Buddhas.
The Five Contemplations Dining Hall, with a forty-foot-high painting of Guan Yin Bodhisattva (the metal bars across the top are heaters).

Traditions held at the monastery

Two practices distinguish the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas from many other Chinese Buddhist monasteries: the monastics always wear their kasaya sashes (long sashes that are worn outside the monastic clothing), and they eat only one meal a day and only before noon.

At night most of them sit up and rest, not lying down to sleep. Monastics at the city do not have any social lives, nor do men and women intermingle. Whereas many ordinary Chinese monks go out to perform rituals for events such as weddings or funerals, none of these monks do so. Some monastics even choose to maintain a vow of silence, for varying periods of time. They wear a tag saying "No Talking" and do not speak with anyone.

There are monks and nuns who maintain the precept of not owning personal wealth and not touching money, thus eliminating the thought of money and increasing their purity of mind. Master Hua often reminded his disciples, "In cultivation, we have to stick to our principles! We can't forget our principles. Our principles are our goal. Once we recognize our goal, forward we go! We've got to be brave and vigorous. We can't retreat. As long as we are vigorous and not lax in ordinary times, we could become enlightened any minute or any second. So by no means should we let ourselves be confused by thoughts, and miss the opportunity to get enlightened."


The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is a strict Buddhist monastery adhering to the traditional Asian monastic culture although it is located in a liberal area of California. While the traditionalists are more drawn to the spiritual and devotional side of Buddhism, Westerners are often more interested in meditation. Some of the boarding school children are Westerners from the local community who want their children to grow up in a community-oriented place, while some of the children come from Taiwan and Mainland China, even from European countries, such as France, Belgium, and Holland, where parents think highly of Hua.

The monastery houses both male and female Sangha, students from the boarding school, and is open to the public. However, males and females have separate campuses, with gender-neutral buildings in the middle of the campus. Many monasteries in Mainland China, Taiwan, and in the West house only monks or only nuns but not both, and are closed to the public.

Guiding principles and customs

Hua set up the six principles for all monastics and lay practitioners to follow as guidelines for spiritual development. These principles were "to not fight, to not be greedy, to not seek, to not be selfish, to not pursue personal advantage, and to not lie."

Since spiritual development is a full-time endeavor, certain rules and customs are followed by the community:

Other notable customs:


A peacock at the City.

Many animals roam the grounds of the City, including peacocks, deer, squirrels, and other species. The peacocks are generally quite accustomed to the presence of people and are tame. Peacocks pose a large problem on the farm, so countermeasures have been taken against the peacocks, including covering the plants, moving the peacocks to a walnut farm, and planting extra food based on the assumption that a significant fraction will be eaten or damaged by peacocks. During special Dharma Assemblies, a Liberating of Life ceremony is held where many animals - especially pheasants and chukars - bought from hunting preserves are set free.

Daily schedule



Largest temple in the Western Hemisphere

Another temple known as Hsi Lai Temple, located in Hacienda Heights, a city in Southern California, has claimed since 1988 that they are the largest Buddhist temple in the Western Hemisphere. However, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas has over 80 acres (320,000 m2) of built-up land on 488 acres (1.97 km2) of property as compared to Hsi Lai Temples' 15 acres (61,000 m2), but rather than a temple complex as is Hsi Lai Temple, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is more of an entire community with several large buildings clustered together. Therefore, it is unclear which is the largest, as there is a significant difference between the structure and location of the two Buddhist organizations.

See also


  1. In Memory of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, Buddhist Text Translation Society, p.26, 1995, ISBN 9780881395518
  2. Fire at City of Ten Thousand Buddhas - Ukiah Daily Journal, 28 Jan 2009
  3. "Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas". THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  4. "About Us". Buddhist Text Translation Society. Retrieved 10 September 2014.

External links

Coordinates: 39°07′59″N 123°09′52″W / 39.13312°N 123.1645°W / 39.13312; -123.1645

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