With dipping temperatures and Autumn fast approaching there has never been a better time to explore the wealth of culture that Beijing's ancient temples provide. In this article we discover some of the best temples in Beijing to be explored and enjoyed as summer breaths its last breath.
The Temple of Heaven. Photo: rainbowskill.com
1) The Temple of Heaven天坛 View In Map
The Temple of Heaven is arguably one of the grandest Temples in China and is a must see for anyone passing through Beijing. It was built by the Emperor Yongle from 1406 – 1420 who, incidentally, also built the Forbidden City and the Big Bell Temple. The park layout and building structures are full of fascinating religious symbolism. The park itself is rectangular at the bottom and circular at the top symbolising the relationship between heaven and earth. The Chinese believed that the Emperor was the son of Heaven who acted as their intermediary between the heavens and earth. Because of this belief public ceremonies were of great importance and the Emperor would come here every solstice to pray for an abundant harvest. The temple was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 and holds a number of magnificently preserved buildings and courtyards. The most captivating aspect of this site are the contrasting lines of symmetry in the constructions. Avid photographers could spend hours lost in time here.
Add: 7 Tiantan Nei Dongli, Chongwen District, Beijing
Opening Hours: 06.00 – 22.00 (although tickets are unavailable after 17.00)
Entrance Fee (peak season): 15 RMB (certain sections require additional tickets which range from 10 – 35 RMB).
Getting there: Take subway line 5 to Tiantanmen Dong station and leave from Exit A1. This will lead you to the east gate of the Temple of Heaven.
The Confucius Temple. Photo: uua.cn
2) The Temple of Confucius 北京孔庙 View In Map
The Beijing Confucius Temple is the second largest Confucian Temple in China after the one in Qufu, the birthplace of the man himself. It was built in 1302 and was used, by imperial officials, as a place to revere China's greatest thinker right up until 1911. Today the Temple is a picture of harmonious tranquility with ancient Cypress and Juniper trees adding a reminder of what the ancients truly valued. The Temple holds a great amount of historical information and is definitely worth a stop for enthusiastic history buffs. In the front courtyard there are 198 stone tablets that contain the names of more that 51,000 jinshi, or advanced scholars of the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. And because of its links with the adjacent Imperial College, the names of many generations of scholars who passed the Imperial Examination are also recorded.
Add: 13 Guozijian Jie, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Opening Hours: 08.30 – 16.30
Entrance Fee: 20 RMB
Getting there: Subway – Take line 2/5 to Yonghegong station (雍和宫站). Leave Yonghegong from Exit C (Southwest Exit) and walk approximately 500 metres south until you cross Guozijian street where the temple is located.
The entrance of the Big Bell Tower. Photo: wikimedia.org
3) The Big Bell Temple 大钟寺View In Map
The Big Bell Temple or Da Zhong Temple (大钟寺) is located on the West section of the North third ring road. The obvious attraction is the Big Bell itself. It weighs about 46 tons and has a height of 5.5 metres. It was cast during the reign of Yongle (1403-1424) which actually precedes the founding of the Temple which was built in 1733. Aside from it's tremendous weight, size and melodious tones visitors might find the thousands of Buddhist scriptures engraved upon its surface of particular interest.
Add: A31 North third ring road, Haidian District Beijing
Opening Hours: 09.00 – 16.30
Entrance Fee: 10 RMB
Getting there: Take subway line 13 to Dazhongsi Station. Leave Dazhongsi from Exit A (Northwest Exit) and walk Northwest.
The Temple of Azure Clouds. Photo: gouhao.com
4) The Temple of Azure Clouds 碧云寺 View In Map
The Temple of Azure Clouds or Biyunsi is located just outside the North gate of Xiangshan Park (fragrant Hills Park) about 20km northwest of Beijing city centre. The setting is almost as beautiful as the name itself and inspires a buddha-tastic inner peace. The Temple is built on a very steep gradient which, on clear days, boasts spectacular views. The complex includes a Sun Yat-sen memorial Hall and, although he was buried in Nanjing, contains certain memorabilia in honour of the great man. It is advised to visit in the Autumn to make the most of the vibrant deciduous scenery, and on the plus side it might even be cool enough to enjoy the short walk up there.
Add: Eastern foot of Xiangshan, Haidian District, Beijing
Opening Hours: 08:30 – 17:00
Entrance Fee: 10 RMB (Enter through Xiangshan Park)
Getting there: There are a number of busses that Terminate at Xiangshan, check www.bjbus.com to find the most convenient route.
5) Tanzhe Temple 潭柘寺 View In Map
Tanzhe Temple is large Temple complex situated in the Western Hills about 40km from Beijing city centre in Mentougou District. It was built during the Jin dynasty, about 1,700 years ago but has since accumulated many additions so that most of the existing buildings date from the Ming and Qing dynasties. “Tanzhe Temple” literally means “temple of pool and zhe”, a type of tree, and it is not hard to figure out how it got its name once you have found the pool and seen the ancient trees. As one of Beijing’s oldest temples it is definitely worth a visit and if you're looking to escape the grimy pollution of the big city then this is the perfect excuse.
Add: Foot of Tanzhe Mountain, Mentougou District, Beijing
Opening Hours: 08:00-17.00
Entrance Fee: 55 RMB
Getting there: Take subway line 1 West to Pinguoyuan. Exit and walk West until you see the bus station. From here take bus 931 all the way to the terminus which is Tanzhesi stop.
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