Famen Temple(法门寺Fǎménsì), situated about 118 kilometers west of Xi'an and along the ancient Silk Road, is a 13-tiered octagonal pagoda on the plain north of the county town of Fufeng under the municipality of Baoji. It is a stupa built in the second century (the Eastern Han Dynasty) by the Indian King Asoka to keep a finger relic of the Buddha. The temple in which the pagoda stands used to be an imperial temple from dynasty to dynasty.

The temple gained the name Famen (which means the initial approach to become a Buddhist believer) in the Tang Dynasty when a wooden four-storey structure was built replacing the original Asoka Stupa built in the Eastern Han Dynasty. The temple with the "the Real Spirit Pagoda" in it enjoyed the "forefather of pagodas and temples in Central Shaanxi", for the finger bones of Sakyamuni -- the founder of Buddhism.

In the course of rebuilding the pagoda in 1987, an underground palace was accidentally discovered beneath the foundation of the pagoda and a large amount of Buddhist relics were found. The underground palace consists of seven parts: steps, corridors, balconies, passageway, front chamber, central chamber and rear chamber. This palace is 21.2 meters long with an area of 31.84 square meters and boasts the largest of this kind ever discovered with the remains of the finger bones of Sakyamuni and valuable relics that enshrined these precious bones. The findings include four finger bones of Sakyamuni, 121 gold and silver articles, 17 glass articles, 16 pieces of olive green porcelain, more than 700 pieces of silk fabrics, 104 Buddhist figurines, hundreds of volumes of Buddhist scripture and many stone carvings and steles.

Many other Buddhist relics discovered at the Famen Temple include gold brocades, porcelains and gold plate. The exquisite patterns on a embroidered skirts that the Empress Wu Zetian had consecrated were made out of gold threads, only 0.1 millimeter thick each, finer than a hair inter-twisted with silk thread. It reveals the superb technique of gold brocade in the Tang Dynasty. The gold gilded monk's cane is the most precious Buddhist gold and silver relic.

Finger Bones of Sakyamuni

About a century after the death of Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, the ancient Indian King Asoka decided to distribute a selection of Sakyamuni's relics to many places in the known world where Buddhism had gained adherents. The Famen Temple was awarded a finger bone. Among the four discovered so far, the one kept in a five-layered marble chest, which was retained in a secret niche in the back room is tubular-like, 37millimeters long, white and yellow in color. It has been authenticated the only real. And the other three were imitations of identical color and shape.