The Middle Kingdom is said to have 5,000 years of culture and these are just the places to learn about the rich history of China, whether you're interested in religion, politics, warfare or peoples.
Chengdu's oldest and largest temple is the Wenshu Monastery (Wénshū Yuàn, 文殊院). The temple that stands today is a Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD) reconstruction of a Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) temple from centuries earlier. Dedicated to the incarnation of Wenshu, you'll see his image associated with a lion throughout the grounds—these are representations of his symbolic animal. The soaring, red-walled halls are beautiful examples of classic architecture with their inverted eaves and sky-high ceilings. The space buzzes with..
Home to the biggest bell in China, the Great Bell Temple (Dàzhōng Sì, 大钟寺) was built in 1733 during the Qing Dynasty. The bell itself, known as the "King of Bells," was cast in 1405 during the rule of the Ming Emperor Yongle. Covered with Buddhist writings in Chinese and Sanskrit, the bell weighs a hefty 46.5 tonnes (51 tons) and is 6.75 m (22 ft 2 in) tall. It's rung 108 times—a lucky number—on special occasions such as the Chinese New Year. The legend behind this behemoth of a bell, tells that the emperor..
Tianjin's famous Grand Mercy Monastery (Dàbēi Chányuàn, 大悲禅院) is located beside the Haihe River on Tianwei Lu (Tiánwěi Lù, 田尾路). Belonging to the Zen (Chan) School of Buddhism, the Grand Mercy Monastery is one of the biggest and best-preserved Zen Temples in northern China, though many of the monastery's buildings had to be rebuilt after the 1976 Tangshan earthquake. The temple is divided into two parts: the Old Temple, built in 1669 during the Qing Dynasty, and the New Temple, added in 1940, which..
Cold Mountain Temple (Hánshān Sì, 寒山寺), named after a well-respected monk that lived during the short-lived Liang Dynasty, is one of China's most renowned Buddhist temples—mainly in part for its role in several Chinese legends, folk stories and poems by Tang Dynasty poet, Zhang Ji. Today's visitors admire the temple's unique black roof and domed bridge. Other buildings in the temple complex include a Grand Prayer Hall, Sutra-Collection Building, Bell Tower, Fengjiang Pavilion and Tablets Corridor. The surrounding..
About 4 km (2.5 mi) north of Lhasa lies Sera Monastery (Sèlā Sì, 色拉寺), one of the three great university monasteries dedicated to the Gelukpa, or "yellow hat," school of Buddhism. Although many of the monastery's nearby affiliated hermitages were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, Sera remains one of the oldest original structures important to Tibetan Buddhism. During weekdays starting from 3pm, you can witness the resident monks engage in the famously clamorous debates in which loud claps and shouts punctuate the..
Any trip to Lhasa will warrant a few visits to Barkhor (Bākuò Jiē, 八廓街; "Barkhor Street")—the religious heart and market center of the capital surrounding Jokhang Temple. The plaza itself was created and paved not too long ago by the Chinese, but its been an important site for Tibetans for far longer, with the circuit around the temple going back to the 7th century. In recent decades, the square has been a popular place for protests and demonstrations (though these are becoming rare and small due to strict surveillance), so..
Jokhang Temple (Dàzhāo Sì, 大昭寺) is the most important and sacred temple in Tibetan Buddhism and a key center of pilgrimage. The symbolic power of the site has made it one of the most politically sensitive spots within the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Founded in 647 during the reign of Tibetan ruler Songstän Gampo, this temple was initially constructed to house the Jowo Sakyamuni, a sacred image of the 12-year old Buddha. Located in the temple's main hall, this is the most revered Buddha statue in Tibet. The four-storey..
To get to the Samye Monastery (Sāngyē Sì, 桑耶寺) from Lhasa, you'll have to take an early morning bus to the Samye Ferry (recommended) or Tsetang Bridge to get across the river. Most pilgrims and tourists hitchhike the 9 km (5.5 mi) from the crossing to the monastery. Despite this rather troublesome journey, most visitors to Samye are pleasantly surprised by this out-of-the way attraction. It is, after all, the oldest monastery in Tibet, built more than 1,200 years ago, and a symbol of Buddhism's triumph over Bön, the previous..
Built during the Tang Dynasty, the Bamboo Temple (Qióngzhú Sì, 筇竹寺) is best known for housing a large collection of arhat (luóhàn, 罗汉, in Chinese), which are like Buddhist saint sculptures. These life-size clay figures were sculpted over seven years by Li Guangxiu and his craftsmen and each represents some aspect of the human experience. It is a delighfully realistic (or surrealistic) collection of statues with perfectly fixed expressions seemingly frozen in time. The architecture of the temple is worth..
Located 45 kilometers west of Beijing, Tanzhe Temple dates back to the Jin Dynasty (265-420 AD) and is not only the oldest temple in the surrounding hills, but was also once one of Beijing's most important and famous temples. Despite its old age, most of the temple has been refurbished since Tanzhe became an official satellite tourist attraction; however, the two "Emperor" gingko trees are originals, dating back roughly 1,000 years. Comprised of the Archway, the Front Gate, Deveraja Hall,..
Located about 20 km from Beijing, near the Temple of Azure Clouds, Wofo Si (Temple of Recumbent Buddha) is a 1300-year old Buddhist Temple built during the Tang Dynasty (618 A.D. - 907A.D.) The temple consists of three main halls: Four Heavenly King's Hall, Three Buddhas Hall and the Recumbent Buddha's Hall; the latter of which is considered the most important and most holy, given the presence of a five-meter high, 54 ton bronze statue of Buddha (Sakyamuni), built in 1321 AD.
Located on the southern slopes of the Western Hills (Xi Shan), about 16 km from downtown Beijing, Badachu Park (Eight Great Sites Park) is home to eight Buddhist temples and nunneries, some of which date back to the Sui Dynasty (581–619 AD). The eight temples are scattered across three wooded hilltops, with a stream running below them, crossed by five bridges. The park makes for a pleasant and convenient getaway in the warmer months, especially on weekdays, when the crowds are at a minimum. The eight Buddhist..