These days the temples Beijing builds tend to be modern skyscrapers honoring the gods of business, but this ancient city also features many temples reflecting a more spiritual past. Here are some of the best to see during your visit.
With archways and five main halls, revolving prayer wheels, colorful glazed tiles, statues of Chinese lions, and Mongolian, Manchu, Tibetan, and Chinese decoration, Beijing’s Lama Temple is the most magnificent Buddhist temple in the city. Don’t miss the 60-foot (18-meter) statue of Buddha, said to be sculpted from a single sandalwood tree.
Temple of Heaven
Situated in Temple of Heaven Park, this popular UNESCO-listed temple—a stop on just about every Beijing tour—was originally built during the Ming and Qing Dynasties as one of the city’s eight ancient altars. The Taoist temple was used in ceremonies to ask the gods for good harvests in the fall and a prosperous new year on the Winter Solstice.
Tanzhe Temple ranks among the city’s oldest and largest temple complexes, though many of the structures you see today date back to the Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty. Set amid the forested hills west of central Beijing, the temple is especially scenic in spring when the magnolias are blooming.
The second largest Confucius temple in China dates back to 1302. A quiet sanctuary away from the busy streets, 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 Confucianism.
Miaoying, also known as the White Stupa Temple, is best known for its collection of thousands of Tibetan Buddhist statues. It’s also home to the tallest Tibetan-style pagoda in China, set amid one of the city’s traditional hutong neighborhoods.