Guangxiao Temple is one of the oldest Buddhisttemples in Guangzhou, the capital of China's GuangdongProvince. As the special geographical position, Guangxiao Temple often acted as a stopover point for Asian missionary monks in the past. It also played a central role in propagating various elements of Buddhism, including precepts school, Chan (Zen), Shingon Buddhism, and Pure Land. In this temple, Huineng, the sixth Chinese patriarch of Chan Buddhism, made his first public Chan lecture and was tonsured, and Amoghavajra, a Shingon Buddhist master, gave his first teaching of esoteric Buddhism. Many Buddhist scriptures were also translated here, including those translated by Yijing and the Shurangama-sūtra translated by Paramitiin (般剌密諦).
Guangxiao originated from the residence of Zhao Jiande, the king of Nanyue whose usurpation prompted Emperor Wu of the Han to invade and annex the area. During the Three Kingdoms, the Wu officer and scholar Yu Fan (虞翻) was banished to live at the residence. After Yu Fan died in 233, his family donated the estate, whose grounds were organized as the Zhizhi Temple. It was repeatedly renamed: the Wangyuanchaoyan Temple, the Wangyuan Temple, the Qianmingfaxing Temple, the Chongningwanshou Temple, and the Baoenguangxiaochan Temple.
In 1482, the Chenghua Emperor of the Ming renamed it Guangxiao Temple and personally recorded the new name on a stele. Since then, the temple has kept the name “Guangxiao”.
Between the 4th and 10th centuries, many monks from South Asia (especially India) or mainland China came to the coastal Guangxiao Temple. During the period, Guangxiao Temple reached its peak. In the subsequent centuries, some eminent Chinese monks also visited or lived at Guangxiao Temple to propagate Buddhism, such as Danxia Tianran (丹霞天然) and Yangshan Huiji (仰山慧寂).
In the 17th century, Guangxiao Temple fell into decline, although it underwent minor restoration several times. In the last two centuries, Guangxiao Temple was fatally damaged by the movement to “Requisition Temple Property to Promote Education” (廟產興學; 1898–1931) and the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). Over this period, most of the buildings of Guangxiao Temple were either destroyed or occupied for secular usage.
In the 1980s, Guangxiao Temple was reoccupied by Buddhist monks. Since then, some of its main halls have been rebuilt, such as the Mahavira Hall, Samghrma Hall, and Ksitigarbha Hall. ‘Dharma pillars’ have also been erected in front of each hall. In addition, an animal liberation pond has recently been built near these structures. These reconstructed buildings have restored the beautiful scenery of Guangxiao Temple to some extent. However, the scale of the temple today is much smaller than in the past.
The temple's records are principally recorded in a thread-bound edition entitled The Annals of Guangxiao Temple (光孝寺志), written in 1769.