Founded in 1317, Dongyue Temple is dedicated to Tai Shan, one of the five great mountains of Taoism. Still an active temple, it’s one of the largest Taoist temples in north China at 11.7 acres (4.7 hectares). It’s also one of Beijing’s more unusual temples, with 76 small rooms representing the “departments” of the Taoist underworld.
The temple features three main halls and courtyards, plus more than 350 rooms. In addition to numerous ancient carved stone statues of Taoist deities and figures, there are nearly 100 inscribed stone tablets in the main courtyard. What makes the temple stand out most, however, are the 76 rooms representing the “departments” of the afterlife, as well as the various figures and displays that accompany them. There’s also a Folk Museum, which features more than 1,600 artifacts from all over China, and numerous exhibits on ancient and folk traditions.
Dongyue can be explored on its own, or you can see it on a tour that visits multiple Taoist temples. Other tours include it on along with stops at Buddhist and Confucian temples for a broader picture of Chinese culture.
Things to Know Before You Go
- This is an active temple and visitors should be respectful of worshippers.
- Admission is free during national holidays.
- There are some macabre displays, which may not be appropriate for young kids.
- Although the temple grounds appear small, there’s a lot to see. Plan on at least 90 minutes, especially if you plan to visit the Folk Museum as well.
How to Get There
The temple is located in the Chaoyang District. By subway, take Line 6 and get off at Dongdaqiao Station (Exit A) and walk east, or Line 2 and get off at Chaoyangmen Station (Exit A) and walk east. Or take the 75, 101, 109, 139, or 615 bus and get off at Shenlu Jie Station.
When to Get There
The temple is at its most vibrant (and crowded) during holidays like the Lunar New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival, when a big temple fair and other activities are held.
Departments of Dongyue
The 76 Taoist departments cover a wide range of topics, ranging from the Department of Punishment to the Department for Accumulating Wealth to more esoteric departments like the Department of Flying Birds. Plaster statues depict each department’s topic, and there are donation boxes where worshippers—in appeals to departments for retribution, absolution, or good fortune—can leave red envelopes containing cash, burn incense, or hang a fortune card.