13 Most Incredible Temples in China That You Must Visit
The world’s most populated country China is not just home to 1.3 billion people but is also home to one of the oldest cultures on the planet. Further, China is the center of several incredible Buddhist temples.
The Buddhist era was first introduced in China around the Christian era, which can be traced back to Western Han and Eastern Han dynasties (202BC to 220 AD).
Even today, you will see traces of Buddhism in China because it has influenced Chinese culture in many areas such as philosophy, literature, art, politics, medicine, and material culture.
Apart from Buddhism, China has many religious influences like Taoism, Confucianism, and Christianity. And the most interesting thing about this is that you will notice these in their architectural style as well.
So, if you are also eager to check their beautiful architectural style, we have curated a list of 9 incredible temples in China in this article.
Let’s get started.
- 1. Temple of Heaven, Beijing
- 2. Hanging Temple, Datong
- 3. Jokhang Temple, Tibet
- 4. Da Ci’en Temple, Xi’an
- 5. Wannian Temple, Mt Emei
- 6. Yonghe Lama Temple, Beijing
- 7. Da Xiangguo Temple, Kaifeng
- 8. South Putuo, Xiamen
- 9. Lingyin Temple, Hangzhou
- 10. White Horse Temple, Henan
- 11. Shaolin Temple, Henan
- 12. Nanshan Temple, Sanya
- 13. Longmen Cave Temples, Henan
1. Temple of Heaven, Beijing
Considered one of the most popular temples, the Temple of Heaven is located in the capital city. The Temple of Heaven was built in the 15th century by Emperor Yongle.
The kings of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) used to host the Heaven Worship Ceremony on the land where the temple was built, and that’s how this temple got its name.
This Temple of Heaven is spread across a land area of 2,700,000 square meters and is covered by a huge wall. The Chinese believed that heaven is round and earth is square, and on the basis of that, they designed this temple.
Also, the Temple of Heaven is not a temple; it is more of an altar (table in the Christian church at which the bread and wine are consecrated in communion services).
Apart from the main building, the site of the temple also includes the Huanquitan, the altar, Huang Qiong Yu, also known as the Imperial Vault of Heaven, and Qiniandian, known as the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest.
2. Hanging Temple, Datong
The Hanging Temple is true to its name because it is built straight into a cliff and sits 75 meters above the ground in the Hengshan mountain. This architectural marvel has survived the natural force for 1400 years.
The Hanging Temple is the only place where China’s religions like Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism are practiced. Further, the temple features Buddhist prayer houses that display the sculptures of Sakyamuni, Confucius, and Laotzu.
Apart from this, there are 80 more sculptures made of stone, iron, terracotta, and copper displayed in 40 different halls. All these things add up and make this temple China’s most unique historical sites that are worth visiting.
3. Jokhang Temple, Tibet
There are only two reasons to visit Tibet; firstly, to cherish the incredible scenic beauty of nature and secondly, to get lost in the spiritual world of Tibet’s religious sites.
One such religious site is Jokhang Temple which is the spiritual heart of Tibet. Buddhists consider Jokhang Temple as a holy pilgrim destination and also attracts a lot of worshippers from the entire region.
What makes this temple so special is that it houses a 1300 years old golden statue of Buddha; interesting, isn’t it!
As soon as you visit the temple, you will see that the design of the temple is shaped according to the shape of Manda. As you move further, you will be greeted with a beautiful golden roof.
Apart from being one of the most beautiful temples in China, the Jokhang Temple carries traditional Tibetan, Nepalese, and Indian designs wonderfully. This makes the Jokhang Temple a must-visit if you are visiting Tibet.
4. Da Ci’en Temple, Xi’an
The city of Xi’an holds a special place when it comes to ancient history. It is a place of wonders that has the Terracotta army, a century-old city wall, and the Da Ci’en Temple.
The temple of Da Ci’en is a world-famous icon that is also home to the seven-story Big Wild Goose Pagoda. In fact, the temple is a Buddhist sanctuary that exaggerates a stunning history spread across a millennium and amazing architecture, all this in the middle of a busy urban city!
Interestingly, this temple is spread across an area of around 50,700 sq/m and serves as a place to store Buddhist statues, scriptures, and writings obtained from India by Buddhist Xuanzang.
5. Wannian Temple, Mt Emei
Another beautiful temple of China is the Wannian Temple, located on the Emei mountain at the height of 1020 meters above sea level. The Wannian Temple is also known as the Ten Thousand Year Temple in Chinese, and it is one of the eight structures that sit on Mr. Emei.
Wannian temple was first built during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420) and was later destroyed by fire and was rebuilt in the year 1953. There are three main attractions to see when you visit this temple:
l Palm-leaf manuscript,
l The royal seal that is as heavy as 4kgs and
l The Tooth of Buddha
Along with that, you can also visit several Buddhist halls, including Maitreya Hall, Hall of Avalokitesvara Buddhisatva, Samantabhra Hall, and more.
Moreover, the Samantabhra Hall features a bronze statue of Samantabhra Bodhisattva, and the Xingyuan hall features three priceless treasures.
6. Yonghe Lama Temple, Beijing
Beijing is not just a city with modern infrastructures, it is a place that features some ancient structures, and one such building is the Yonghe Lama Temple.
Also known as Yonghe Lamasery or Lama Temple, this place is famously known as the Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet.
This site was first built as an imperial palace in 1694, and then it was converted into lamasery in 1722. Today, Yonghe Lama is an active monastery of the Tibetan Gelug sect where you will still see monks and locals praying, thus giving the temple a very peaceful atmosphere.
Furthermore, this temple also houses five huge halls: The Gate Hall of Harmony and Peace, The Hall of Harmony and Peace, The Hall of Everlasting Protection, The Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happiness, and The Hall of the Wheel of the Law.
These halls consist of numerous statues, including a Guinness Book holder 18-meter statue of Maitreya Buddha made from a single piece of wood.
It is surely a place to see when you are in Beijing.
7. Da Xiangguo Temple, Kaifeng
Another well-known Buddhist temple is the Da Xiangguo temple, located in the Kaifeng, Henan province. Also, it is one of the ten popular temples that plays a very important role in Chinese Buddhism.
The temple features some magnificent architecture that was built in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Moreover, you can also check out Mountain gate, Heavenly Kings hall, Daxiongbaodian hall, or Hall of Sakyamuni, and many more places when you visit this temple.
You will see the Belltower and Drum tower as soon as you enter the gates. The bell that you will see weighs around 5 tons and is around 7.3 feet tall. When it rings, the sound echoes all over the place, especially during the winters.
The most exciting thing is situated in the Arhat hall, which is a wooden statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. This statue is carved from the trunk of a big ginkgo tree in the Qing Dynasty, under the rule of Emperor Qianlong.
8. South Putuo, Xiamen
Another on the list of incredible temples in China is the South Putuo temple located in Xiamen, Fujian province in China. Talking about the location, this temple is situated on the edge of Wulaofeng and faces the sea.
This place is best known for its stunning scenery and will surely give you serenity.
South Putuo was first constructed by the Tang Dynasty and was destroyed many times. After that, the temple was rebuilt again in the 23rd year of the Kangxi region of the Qing dynasty.
Places to see nearby this temple include Tianwang hall, Daxiong Dabei hall, and the Depository of Buddhist Sutras. Additionally, there is a 30m quadrate Free Life pond and a lotus pool in front of Tianwang hall.
9. Lingyin Temple, Hangzhou
Located in the mountains of Wuling, the Lingyin Temple, also called the Temple of Soul, is a Buddhist temple of the Chan sect. This temple got its name ‘Temple of Soul’ because one day, an Indian monk visited the site, and he saw it as a place where immortals lived.
The Lingyin Temple was first founded in the 4th century and was built and destroyed many times before. But today, it is one of the biggest Buddhist temples in China.
If you are interested in Chinese Buddhism, Lingyin Temple is the perfect place as it offers Buddhist scriptures and teachings. Apart from scriptures, the temple also has a tablet that Emperor Kangxi wrote during the Qing Dynasty.
Further, there is a Hall of Five Hundred Arhats, the Hall of Medicine Buddha, and the Grand Hall of the Great Sage are some of the places that you can visit within the temple area.
10. White Horse Temple, Henan
According to historians, the White Horse Temple is the first Buddhist temple in China which was established in 68 AD by the Emperor Ming of the Han Dynasty.
Between the years 1952 and 1973, this temple was renovated many times, and today it features several halls that are filled with ancient statues, including a jade statue of Sakyamuni Buddha.
Along with that, the temple also holds the tombs of the Indian monks, the Hall of Heavenly Kings, the Hall of Guidance, etc. Some of the halls have statues of the famous laughing Buddha, Maitreya, Buddha of Medicine, Amitabha Budhha, and many more.
11. Shaolin Temple, Henan
Another ancient structure located in Henan is the Shaolin Temple. As the name suggests, the Shaolin temple was the place where the Shaolin kung fu originated hundreds of years ago.
No one knows when the Shaolin temple was discovered, but historians assume that it was founded in the 5th century CE. This temple has been attacked many times and was even set on fire.
Today, as you visit this place, you will see that all the halls that were destroyed have been modernized. Along with that, you can even visit the Wu Shu training center, where you will see Shaolin students practicing kung fu.
12. Nanshan Temple, Sanya
If you want to see and visit something extraordinary, the Nanshan temple is the place for you. Considered one of the most beautiful temples in China, the Nanshan Temple is surrounded by white sand beaches and turquoise waters.
While the main centerpiece of the attraction of this temple is the bronze statue of the Guan Yin Buddha, the statue measures 108 meters in height, bigger than the Ushiku Daibutsu (statue of Buddha in Japan).
The statue of Guan Yin Buddha was built atop the mountain of Nanshan in April 1998. This temple’s site is spread across a land of 40,000 square meters. As you enter the gates, you will be welcomed by ornate white spires that reach out to the statue through a walkway.
It is said that this temple in Sanya is named after a famous Buddhist saying, “Good fortune is as much as the East Sea, longevity is high as Nanshan.”
13. Longmen Cave Temples, Henan
Recorded on the UNESCO world heritage site list in 2000, Longmen Cave temples are also called Longmen Grottoes. This place is situated between Mount Xiang and Mount Longmen on the banks of river Yi.
This temple is a lot different from the list given above because it is carved into the limestone cliffs that extend about a mile in Henan province. Along with the part of the world UNESCO site, the Longmen Cave temples are considered the best examples of Chinese art from the Northern Wei and Tang Dynasties (316-907).
The biggest reason to visit this place is that it contains 60 stupas, 2,800 inscriptions, and more than 100,000 statues, with the largest one being a 17m tall statue of Buddha.
Apart from all the temples mentioned in the list, China is home to many more temples with rich and ancient history. So, if you ever happen to visit China, plan your trip accordingly and visit these temples, know their history, and get lost in the beautiful land of China.