I’m the kind of traveler that loves history and culture and has to put old churches or historical, spiritual places on my list of places to see. Now that I’m in Beijing, there is a slew of Chinese temples to check out. Beijing has some of the oldest temples in the country, and some of the biggest temples in the world. Here I’ve made a list of some fascinating temples to check out while in Beijing.
The Lama Temple (Yonghe Temple)
Hours: 09:00 – 16:30 |Price: 20 RMB |Address: 12 Yonghegong Street,Dongcheng District, Beijing
This Chinese temple is huge; I mean it covers 16 acres. It’s a popular tourist attraction, but it’s still an active Tibetan Buddhist temple. You’ll find Tibetan Buddhists in their traditional red and golden robes walking to different halls. The Lama Temple has an interesting history; it’s well-kept 17th-century architecture represents how well it has aged.
Built in 1694, the Lama Temple was originally built as a residential palace for the Prince Yinzhen. Once he was adorned as emperor Yongzheng, he moved to the Forbidden City, and the palace was re-tiled in a golden yellow, giving the temple imperial status.
After the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the Chinese temple closed and was declared a national monument. Its doors were locked until reopening thirty years later as a tourist attraction. If you visit this historic Chinese temple in Beijing, you’ll find beautiful halls and incense wafting through the space. A statue of the expectant Buddha, Maitreya, can be found in the Wangfu Ge hall, which was a gift from the seventh Dali Lama.
The Confucius Temple
Hours: 08:00 – 17:00 |Price: 30RMB |Address: 15 Guozijian St, Dongcheng District, Beijing
The construction of this Chinese temple took place during the Yuan, Ming & Qing Dynasties, starting in 1302. During the later Ming and Qing Dynasties, additions were made to the temple, expanding it to be the second largest Confucius temple in China. Four large courtyards, ceremonies are held within the Dancheng Hall, or the Hall of Great Accomplishment. The Chinese temple contains 198 stones tablets positioned in the courtyard with the names of 51,624 scholars from the three dynasties.
Watch out for the Chujian Bai, the Touch of Evil Cypress. It’s a 700-year-old tree; that may be friends with Old Saint Nick. Don’t make that face, there’s a story behind it, well a legend per say. One day when a corrupt official from the Ming Dynasty was passing under the tree, a branch knocked off his hat. Now this was a peaceful tree till that day, never bothering a soul. So since that day, people believed the tree could distinguish between good and evil.
Temple of the Moon
Hours: 06:00 – 21:00|Price: 1RMB |Address: 6 Yuetan North Road, Xicheng District, Beijing
Built during the Ming & Qing Dynasties in 1530, this Chinese temple is more like an alter than a temple. It still shares the same features of other temples on the list and is nestled in the southeast area of the Yuetan Park. The alter is found within the temple walls, its design and sophistication are matched by its color; a creamy ivory to represent the moon, was where emperors made sacrifices to the moon god and the gods of the stars.
The Yuetan Park that’s home to this Chinese temple is noticed as a Cultural Relic of National Importance and is under the protection of the state since 2006. Within the temple, you can find the area in the Kitchen Hall where they prepared sacrifices and the well where the served snake during ceremonies.
This temple is a bit on the smaller scale compared to others on the list, but a trip to this park will be a nice break from the bustling Beijing cityscape.
White Cloud Temple
Hours: 08:00 – 16:30|Price: 10RMB |Address: 9 Baiyunguan Road, Xicheng District, Beijing
Please don’t come into this temple with loud voices, take in the peaceful atmosphere, as this is still an active Taoist temple. Some Taoists still make a pilgrimage to this temple that lies in Beijing. It’s the place where you’ll find the Taoist Association of China. You’ll find 30 residential monks garbed in their blue robes, and hair tied up in buns atop of their heads. It is like stepping back in time to a much more tranquil period of life.
Originally built in 739, it was named the Tianchang, Celestial Perpetuity, Taoist Temple. Soon after its opening, it became one of the most influential Chinese temples. It was renamed the first time the Palace of Eternal Spring. Unfortunately, it was burned down many times in its history but was always rebuilt.
The Chinese temple is beautifully ornamented, first with a white jade statue of Lao Zi in the opening room. Each hall is dedicated to various deities, so take your time exploring and paying your respects around the temple.
If you’re down on your luck, look for the three stone monkeys hidden in the temple. It’s said that if you find and touch all three of them, you’ll live a long and prosperous life. If monkey finding is to hard for you, then there’s another chance for good luck underneath the Wofeng Bridge, which ironically doesn’t have water underneath it, but instead, there lies a large coin with a hole in it. Inside the hole is a bell, and if you flip your coin and the bell dongs, you will come into a great fortune.
Hours: 08:00 – 17:30 (summer) 08:30 – 16:30 (winter) |Price: 35RMB |Address: Western Hills
In a league of its own, this Chinese temple was built over the span of several centuries. Mainly beginning in the Jin Dynasty, it ages at around 1600-years-old. It’s also overwhelmingly vast, measuring at 1.8 hectares.
Many monks practice Buddhism here, living out the rest of their lives on these grounds. So you’ll find pagoda tombs in their honor around the area. One of the most famous, standing for Princess Miaoyan, daughter of Kublai Khan, from the Yuan Dynasty. She converted to Buddhism to redeem the lives her father claimed during battles. Her pagoda is five stories tall with smaller pagodas on each side.
The Tanzhe Temple hold a month long tea festival, Zen Tea Culture Festival, from July to early September. The goal of this long festival is to share the significance of this ancient art form that is Chinese tea culture.
Temple of Heaven
Hours: 06:00 – 20:00 |Price: 15RMB |Address: 7 East of Tianqiao Tiantan Road, Chongwen District, Beijing
Probably one of the most well-known Chinese temples in Beijing, it’s even larger than the Forbidden City. The Temple of Heaven was built in 1420 during Emperor Youngle’s rule in the Ming Dynasty. In 1998 it officially opened as a public park.
During its long history, it was expanded by Emperor Jiajing in the 16th century. Jiajing was also responsible for strategically placing three other temples around Beijing during his reign. The Chinese temple was occupied during the Second Opium Wars which resulted in much-needed remodeling.
The Temple of Heaven is one hodgepodge of symbols. Ancient Chinese people placed symbols in a lot of their architecture and also their art. The staging of the buildings is the most prominent symbol of the temple. The northern part is higher than the southern part. The north being heaven and the south Earth. The Chinese also represented Earth as a square and heaven as a circle, as the Hall of Prayer is circular in its shape. Twice a year, the emperor of China, who was regarded as the son of Heaven, would show his respect and present sacrifices to Heaven. There’s so much to see in this Chinese temple. If you’re going to Beijing, you cannot miss this heavenly place.
Temple of Earth
Hours: 06:00 – 21:00 |Price: 10RMB |Address Tiantan Road, Dongcheng District, Beijing:
When I said that Jiajing placed Chinese temples strategically among Beijing, I meant it. The Temple of the Earth is directly opposite of the Temple of Heaven, located in the north of Beijing in its second inner ring.
It was built in 1530 during the Ming Dynasty. Summer Solstice ceremonies were held here, where the emperors would attend and present offerings to Heaven. The design of the Chinese temple embodies the traditional symbol of Earth; you’ll realize that the architecture represents squares. Its location being in the north represents the Earth. Additionally, the moon and sun temples are placed east and west of each other. Either Jiajing was OCD, or he was a sincerely spiritual emperor, but he undoubtedly left his mark.
Yunju Temple (Temple of Cloud Dwelling)
Hours: 08:30 – 16:30 |Price: 40RMB |Address: Shuitou Village, Shiwo Town, Fangshan District, Beijing
One of the quieter Chinese temples in Beijing. Maybe it’s because of its somewhat pricey entrance fee or maybe because a lot of tourists look over this serious historical gem. It’s about 17 acres and was built during the Sui Dynasty (581 – 618) and the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907). There are five courtyards, monks’ dormitories, wing halls and pagodas dotted around the park.
This Chinese temple holds a significant history because of the literature history. The Yunju temple is known for the paper, stone and wood sutras. And they all have an unbelievable story.
Beginning with the paper Sutra, which was written on 22,000 scrolls in the Ming Dynasty. A distinguished monk wrote pieces of this sutra in his own blood to show his devotion to Sakayumi, the father of Buddhism. The other wood Sutra, the Long Zang, has over 77,000 pieces and was carved over five years in the Qing Dynasty.
The wonder to behold would be the stone sutra. It began in 605 in the Sui Dynasty and lasted 1039 years, long into the Ming Dynasty. In the end 3572, Buddhist books were carved into stone.