Situated in the northern reaches of Beijing's mountainous and surprisingly wooded Huairou district, the Hongluo Temple Tourist resort comprises three main attractions: Hongluo Temple itself, Hongluo Shan (Red Spiral Shell Mountain) and a temple to Guanyin. The area as a whole makes for a pleasant escape from the chaos, polluted air and congestion of the city. Slopes and ravines covered in stands of bamboo, pines and hardwoods give way to numerous shrines, pagodas and Buddhist statues as well as the aforementioned temples. The mountain can be explored entirely by foot or by aid of cable car.
Though it's still Beijing, the air is generally clearer and cleaner here, and it's not difficult to understand how the northern style of one of Chinese medicine's primary practices—the breath and movement exercises known as qi gong ("breath work")—was developed at Hongluo Temple. The temple site dates back to the fourth century AD and the Eastern Jin Dynasty. Today's temple includes structures from the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), the period in which Hongluo became one of northern China's largest and most important Buddhist temples. The gates, five halls (all dedicated to a different divine manifestation) and extensive grounds with their ancient trees and gardens recall the Tang era, one of China's cultural golden ages.
The mountain that gives the temple its name got its own name from a legend concerning a fairy and magical spiral snail shells that glowed with a red light. If you chance to visit on the right fall day when the foliage has turned and the sunlight is right, you might get a feel for the origins of the ancient legend: the reds and golds lit up by sunrise or sunset can be sublimely beautiful. Other times of year and day are pleasant as well, even winter, when snowfall creates a starkly contrasting forest landscape, accented by colorful temple walls and roofs.
Hongluo Temple sits at the foot of the mountain; near the top is the local Guanyin Temple, dedicated to the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
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