These days the temples Beijing builds may be more to the gods of business than harvests as modern skyscrapers pop up, but this ancient city is also rich in temples redolent of a more spiritual past. Visiting the Lama Temple, the Temple of Heaven and others dotted around this vibrant city, gives an insight into history, the spiritual and also architectural majesty and beauty.
With archways and five main halls, revolving prayer wheels, colorful glazed tiles, statues of Chinese lions, and Mongolian, Manchu, Tibetan and Chinese decoration, the Lama Temple is the most magnificent of Beijing’s Buddhist temples. It also has a 60 ft (18 m) statue of Buddha, said to be sculpted from a single sandalwood tree.
Temple of Heaven
Temple of Heaven, one of Beijing’s eight Ancient Altars, dates from the 15th century. Built in the Ming and Qing dynasties, it was the center of prayer, traditional ceremonies and sacrificial rites asking the heavens for a good harvest. It is traditionally a Taoist temple.
Also known as the White Stupa Temple, this is a Chinese Buddhist temple with a huge collection of thousands of Tibetan Buddhist statues. Badly damaged in an earthquake in 1976, the government began reconstruction and renovation in 1978. The distinctive white stupa dates from the Yuen dynasty, the rest of the building from the Ming dynasty.
A quiet sanctuary away from the smoggy streets of Beijing, the restored main hall of this temple contains a statue of the sage Kongzi (Confucius). Nearby is the Imperial College, built in 1306 by the grandson of Kublai Khan to teach Confucian classics; it was the supreme academy through the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Even the emperor came once a year to expound the classics to an audience of thousands.
Also worth a look are: Dongyue Temple, these days surrounded by glass and steel high rises but still an active Taoist temple with a focus on the possible afterlives, including a Taoist-style Hades. Similarly Fayuan Temple remains crowded with monks and worshippers and is now the China Buddhism College.
If temples are your thing, consider hiring a local guide and getting a personalized tour of the highlights.
Reply by Viator, February 2013
Doing what: Beijing Walking Tour: History of Chinese Thought and Religion Led by a PhD Scholar
This was a great tour. Luke seemed very well read on a wide range of subjects. Very interesting
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