He Hua Temple
Amsterdam Chinatown has the largest Chinese Mahayana Buddhist Monastery in Europe. This is the He Hua Temple, 荷花寺, is located in the Zeedijk area and also known as the Zeedijk Tempel or Chinese Buddhist Temple Amsterdam.
The idea of a Buddhist temple in Amsterdam Chinatown was initiated by a group of Chinese business leader and who later received help from International Buddhist Progress Society (IBPS) for the project.
When the temple complex was completed, it was officially opened by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on 15 September 2000. He Hua Temple is a branch of the Taiwan based Fo Guang Shan Buddhist, 佛光山, order founded by Venerable Hsing Yun. Fo Guang Shan donated more than half of the construction cost while the rest came from local businesses and individuals.
The name He Hua Temple has double symbolic meanings in Netherlands. He Hua, 荷花, is the Chinese name for lotus, a plant widely seen in Buddhist art. At the same time, the Chinese character for “He”, “荷” is same character used in “Helan” 荷兰, the Chinese name for Netherlands. This choice makes the name especially symbolic for the country and people.
The main hall is dedicated to Guan Yin, 观音, Bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara, whose sculpture graces the main shrine.
The bodhisattva has Wei Tuo, 韋馱菩萨, and Qie Lan, 伽蓝菩萨, both Dharma protectors by her side. Qie Lan is also known to the Taoists as Guan Gong, 关公, the god of war.
There are many visitors to the He Hua temple every day. Many tourists visit the temple to take pictures and being the only Chinese monastery in Amsterdam Chinatown, it is a must visit place.
In fact, He Hua temple offers a guided tour for the public and they even have a notice to invite visitors to seek clarification if they need further information.
Meanwhile, devotees, both Chinese and Caucasians, can be seen paying their respects to the bodhisattva or mediating at a corner. He Hua temple also offers a series of program and courses for local residents. As the largest Buddhist monastery in Europe, this is one of the main places to celebrate the Vesak day.
He Hua temple is an interesting and must visit place in Amsterdam. Its Chinese architecture stands in contrast to the Dutch style buildings around it. Yet it blends gracefully into the surrounding.
Beyond architecture and the fact that it is the only Buddhist monastery in Amsterdam Chinatown, the existence of He Hua temple reflects the diversity of the Dutch society and another example of the renowned Dutch reputation for tolerance and acceptance of others.