How to Experience Buddhist Culture in China

While Buddhism is one of the most popular religions in China, it was actually foreign to the country at one time. There is talk that the religion arrived in the country around the third century BC and that it was brought over from India. Whenever and wherever it came from, Buddhism exists around China in many different forms. It has become a prominent part of the Chinese culture and is something that visitors like to experience. If you are planning a trip to China, here are just a couple of ways that you can dig into the Buddhist culture there.

Mt. Lingshan Grand Buddha Scenic Area

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Often referred to as the “Buddha Wonderland,” this destination is one of the less serious on the list. While not an actual religious destination, the scenic area is full of statues and monuments that are dedicated to Buddhism. Once inside, visitors have the chance to roam while learning a bit about the culture. Guests here can see:
The Grand Screen Wall: The entrance to the park and a wall full of ancient inscriptions. There are five learning bridges found behind the screen which represents the Buddhist ideas of logic, medicine, and health, accomplishment, linguistics, and self-awareness.
Altar of Buddha’s Footprints: These giant footprint replicas are meant to represent the prints left in India by Sakyamuni.
Nine Dragons Bathing Sakyamuni: A monument to a famous fable about Sakyamuni, the master of the world.
Buddha’s Hand Square: A giant replica of Buddha’s hand that can be touched for good luck.
Xiangfu Temple: Built in the Tang Dynasty, it is said that this temple was once visited by the famous monk, Xuanzang,
Grand Buddha: At the top of over 200 stairs stands this immense Buddha at 289 feet.

Yungang Grottoes

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Located in Shanxi Province, these grottoes hold around 250 caves that are full of more than 51,000 Buddha statues and stone sculptures. China has quite a few Buddhist themed caves, but this one happens to be one of the most noteworthy. The stone carvings here date back to the 5th and 6th centuries, and since 2001, the attraction has been named a World UNESCO Heritage Site.

Mogao Grottoes

This site is also notable for its historic Buddhist cave art. Located on the former Silk Road in Gansu Province, it’s a system made up of 492 temples. The first of these caves were constructed back in 366 AD and now show off some of the best examples of Buddhist cave art.

Leshan Giant Buddha

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This statue is one of the oldest and tallest in all of China and can be found carved into the side of Mount Lingyun. Depicting a seated Buddha, this statue stands at 71 meters and is 24 meters wide. Just the head alone is over 14 meters tall and features 1,021 buns of hair. The statue is so large that a person can comfortably sit on his toenail. The construction of this Buddha started in 713 AD, and since it was complete in 803 AD, it has been considered the largest and tallest Buddha statue in the world.

Shaolin Temple

Located in Henan Province, this temple is situated right at Shaoshi Mountain. It was established back in 495 AD to accommodate an Indian master named Batuo who spent much of his time there translating Buddhist scriptures. The temple is also said to be the birthplace of Kungfu which gives visitors double the reason to spend some time there.

Mount Emei

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Situated in China’s western province of Sichuan, this mountain range is considered one of the four sacred, Buddhist mountains in China. The mountain is considered a place of enlightenment and it is also the location of China’s very first Buddhist temple. Also on-site are more than 70 monasteries where monks reside to practice the religion. The mountain and the views that it offers are some of the top reasons for its spiritual atmosphere.

Taer Monastery

The history of this building goes back about 400 years and is considered a sacred place according to Lama religion. This architectural complex contains over 9,000 structures which include Buddha halls, Buddhist pagodas and scripture halls. Practicing monks can be seen here daily making crafts and going to and from their lessons.
China is absolutely full of Buddhist sites and attractions, making it easy to experience all of the cultures that go along with the religion. You won’t have any trouble diving into what Buddhism is all about on a visit to China.

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Shannon Ullman

Hey! I'm a published American travel blogger and teacher. My travel writing has been featured on Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Matador Network and Thought Catalog. I spent over a year living and traveling around China while I taught English there. I have also visited dozens of other countries around the world.