This was one of the largest Buddhist seminaries 佛學院 in southern China, with an average annual enrollment of 200 students.
This seminary was founded in 1920 after the abbot of Tiānníng Temple saw that the 1,500 participants at the ordination that year were woefully lacking in basic monastic education. A small school for lay children that had been founded two decades before was moved, and a school for the study of the Vinaya 律宗 was created. It was modeled after the ones held at Lóngchāng Temple 隆昌寺.
In 1931, the incoming abbot, following what had become the custom among China's seminaries, changed the name of the seminary to the Tiānníng Buddhist Seminary 天寧佛學院. The curriculum was modernized, and Déyī 得一 became headmaster and lecturer in Consciousness-Only 唯識. Modernization continued when Mǐnzhì 敏智 replaced the retiring Déyī in 1938. English and other nontraditional subjects were added.