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.
The sight of the Buddhist Longhua Temple (Lónghúa Sì, 龙华寺) pagoda rising into the sky against the backdrop of Shanghai's 21st century high-rise skyline can be both jarring and sublime. As the city's largest remaining pagoda, the 40 m (130 ft) tower stands as a monument to China's traditional culture, which so often seems lost in the thicket of Shanghai's metastasizing glass-and-steel high-rise developments and freeway flyovers. At the same time, the pagoda and the busy temple grounds surrounding it illustrate a deep and vibrant continuity..
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..
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..
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..
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..
Fahai Temple was built in 1439 A.D. by a Ming Dynasty eunuch who was favored by Emperor Yingzong. Named by the Ming emperor himself, the temple is noted for its well-preserved religious murals, located in Daxiong Baodian Hall. The paintings, which are over 550 years old, are not only famous for their detail and beauty, but for their level of preservation, attributed to the mineral-laden paints and seven refined methods of painting involved in their creation.
Located approximately 100 kilometers (62 miles) northwest of Tianjin in Jixian County, Pan Shan (Pán Shān, 盘山) makes for a great getaway from hyper-urban Tianjin and Beijing. Pan Shan's green slopes are famed for their jade pines and rock formations shaped into fantastic shapes by centuries of wind and water. In addition to the jade pines, the mountain is home to over 320 different types of tree, making Pan Shan a botanist's paradise. The main peak, Hanging Moon Peak (Guàyuè Fēng, 挂月峰), rises sharply to 864 meters..
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..
Covering an area of 23,000 square meters (5.7 acres), Puning Temple (Pǔníng Sì, 普宁寺) or "Temple of Universal Peace," is the furthest north of the eight temples situated outside the walls of the Imperial Summer Villa (Bishu Shanzhuang) and certainly one of the most impressive. Also known as the Big Buddha Temple (Dàfó Sì, 大佛寺), a reference to the huge statue of the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, Guanyin (a.k.a. Avalokiteshvara)—the world's largest wooden statue—the temple..