BRIDGEPORT — In a neighborhood known for its many places of worship, Bridgeport's Ling Shen Ching Tze Buddhist temple is somewhat of a local hidden gem.
The temple was opened to the public over the weekend as part of the city's Open House Chicago, where residents are invited into local buildings that are typically closed to the public. A tour of the Buddhist temple, 1035 W. 31st St., shows just how unique the facility is.
A Buddha statue is flanked by two demons. [DNAinfo/Joe Ward]
Built in 1894 by Daniel Burnham and John Wellborn Root, the temple had a much more modest exterior than some of the neighborhood's religious institutions, like the ornate and classic St. Mary of Perpetual Help, which was also open as part of Open House Chicago.
The temple may have a simple, triangular shape, but inside there's elaborate designs and displays, including a massive altar that rises to the ceiling.
Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple opened in the building in 1992. The Immanuel Presbyterian Church was its original occupant but it closed in 1930. After that, the building housed the Benton House gym and in the 1950s became the local Knights of Columbus Hall, according to "Bridgeport: Images of America." It for some time operated as bingo parlor, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Since 1992, the temple has been devoted to the teaching of Taoism, which emphasizes humility and religious piety, and the Tantric philosophy, which considers the mysteries of existence. Prayer rooms at the temple have different themes including health and wisdom. In the rooms are sculptures of various buddhas as well as the figures and symbols that tell their story.
Walls of Buddha figurines lines the temple as well. The miniature statues work like Christian prayer cards or prayer candles, where a family can donate money for a statue in a loved one's name. That statue then helps the family's loved one in the afterlife, according to the temple.
Figures adorned with late congregants' names line the temple. [DNAinfo/Joe Ward]
The main altar in the temple leads all the way to the building's ceiling. [DNAinfo/Joe Ward]
The triangular-shaped structure was built in 1894 by Burnham and Root. [Flickr/Beth Walsh]
An origami display in the temple. [DNAinfo/Joe Ward]