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Famous Temples in China That You Have To Visit

When you visit China, you see a country that has deep roots in culture and tradition. An integral piece of China’s history is the part that Buddhism has played in the development of Chinese culture.

To truly get a taste, visiting some of the many famous temples across this sweeping landscape is definitely something to work into your plans. Doing so will give you an in-depth glance into the Buddhist heritage and culture of China.

Here are our top three picks of temples you do not want to miss.

Shaolin Temple

Although this beautiful monastery has a history that dates back 1,500 years, it is still known as the main temple of the Shaolin school of Buddhism down to our day.

Its establishment is attributed to Emperor Xiaowen during the time of the Northern Wei Dynasty. According to tradition, Bodhidharma is said to have founded the teaching and promoting of martial arts from the Shaolin Temple.

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This temple has a turbulent story that includes it being toppled and rebuilt throughout the years. During the mid-1300’s it was ransacked and destroyed and was left abandoned for a few years.

Later, in 1641, it was once more torn to pieces by Li Zicheng since he viewed the monks as giving support to the Ming Dynasty.

The temple was left practically in ruins until the early 1700’s, when it was rebuilt by the Qing Dynasty and then, not long after, destroyed by the same for apparent rebellion. However, this last destruction is traditionally thought to have given wings to the Shaolin martial arts by dispersing monks.

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Continuing throughout the 1800-1900’s, the temple was destroyed a few more times.  However, it was later restored and has gained fame due to TV shows and movies that have used it as their theme. Now it is a popular tourist site.

When visiting this temple, you will be witness to years of troubled history, beautiful architecture, and maybe even some martial arts performances.

White Horse Temple

The story that has been passed on says that the White Horse Temple was originally constructed during the Han Dynasty as a getaway spot in summer for Emperor Liu Zhuang.

Peacefully located outside of Luoyang city, it is legendary as being the roots of Buddhist history in China. Its construction lasted through parts of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

Legend will tell you that in the year 68 AD two monks traveling from India came to Luoyang on a white horse and introduced the Buddhist script. When Emperor Ming saw this, he sponsored the construction of the temple to safeguard the script and gave it its appropriate name.

As the story goes, this temple was once home to many monks and was also a refuge among the turbulent times of the Eastern Han Dynasty.

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In modern times, the buildings here have seen many renovations. It boasts traditional Chinese architecture with the beautiful and intricate design. You can walk through the many different grandiose halls, as well as visiting the Cool and Clear Terrace.

Lingyin Temple

Also known as the Temple of the Soul’s Retreat, this temple is located on the West Lake in Hangzhou, and its location in the Wulin Mountains gives it a tranquil and peaceful setting. It features many rock carvings and grottos.

Tradition has it that this temple was founded by an Indian monk named Huili during the reign of the Eastern Jin Dynasty. At the height of its importance, it was a sprawling complex of multi-story buildings that housed more than 3000 monks. It has been known through history as a major center of Chan Buddhism, and is now a well-traveled destination for pilgrims and tourists alike.

Consisting of many different grand halls, corridors, and several buildings, this temple is also known for its statue of the Laughing Buddha and the Statue of Sakyamuni Sitting on the Lotus Flower, a stunning piece located in the center of the Hall of the Great Hero.

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These temples are just the start of the many beautiful sites that can be visited in China, all rich with history and tradition that has been passed down for centuries. Complete your trip to China with a visit to its magnificent temples: you won’t regret it.

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Cez Krol

Travel blogger at eTramping
Cez lives in China like a local for the past 4 years. Apart from speaking the language, he loves to discover more about this unique country of extreme contrasts. He shares his China experiences here at Sublime China and on his blog eTramping, so go and check out what's out there for you in China.
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