Not just spiritually but also historically, temples play an important role in the everyday lives of people in many cultures. In the ancient days, emperors and kings built temples as monuments to showcase the glory and prosperity of their reign. In this list of top temples in China, we have included only the most prominent, Chinese temples which willmake you regret if you miss them during your trip to China.
Shaolin Temple, Zhengzhou
The 1500 year-old Shaolin Temple is famous for Zen Buddhism and Shaolin Kung Fu martial art. Before it was modernized for commercial purposes, it was the holy place of worship for the Shaolin School of Buddhism. Both the temple and school were targeted for attacks countless times in the past. After the school was set on fire in 1928, the surviving halls were repaired and renovated for tourism.The shaolin temple at Zhengzhou was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.
White Horse Temple, Luoyang
White Horse Templewas the first Buddhist temple in China built by the emperors of Han dynasty in 68 AD. Only 12 km away from Luoyang, the temple is known for its architectural appeal. White Horse Temple is a literal translation of the local Chinese name of the temple, Baimasi or Pi-Ma-Sai. It was renovated multiple times by several Chinese emperors in the past but the last refurbishment was done in March 1973 after the Chinese revolution. The beautiful temple is embellished with manicured gardens and interesting galleries.
The Confucian Temple, Qufu
The Confucian Temple, located in the center of Qufu City, was built in 478 BC, one year after the death of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, to commemorate his philosophical contributions. The Confucian Temple in Qufu is one of the first and biggest displays of admiration for the great philosopher.
Famen Temple, Xi’an
Famen Temple is famous among the Buddhists as a holy sanctum as well as being historically significant for its excavated treasures and ancient Buddhist relics. The treasures found inside the excavation of the temple include four Bodhisattva statueson display in the museum. Built by the end of Eastern Han Dynasty, the Famen Temple in Xi’an is a must-see tourist attraction in China for many travellers.
Temple of Heaven in Beijing
The Temple of Heaven was built by the third emperor of the Ming dynasty, Zhu Di a.k.a. Yongle, emperor over a period of 14 years from 1406 to 1420. The Temple of Heaven is a sacrificial temple complex built for the emperors of Ming and Qing Dynasties to be used for annual ceremonies to appease the heavens to attain fruitful harvests and prosperity to the empire.
Around 14 million people visit the Temple of Heaven every year, making it one of the most popular tourist attractions in China. The temple complex, which is four times larger than the Forbidden City, comprises of three main altars: Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, and the Circular Mound Altar. The imperial tradition also required the emperors to wear traditional Chinese royal ceremonial robes as well as to refrain from eating meat for the annual religious ceremony.
Before you buy cheap flight tickets to China online, make sure you include the Temple of Heaven on the list of the tourist attraction you must not miss.
Jokhang Temple, Lhasa
Among the oldest Buddhist temples in China, Jokhang Temple is a holy destination forBuddhist pilgrims as well as a popular tourist attraction in China with over 19 million visitorslast year. Also known as the Qoikang Monastery and Zuglagkang, the Buddhist temple was first built in 652 CE and was also renovated multiple times over the years. A mixture of Indian, Tibetan and Nepalese influence is evident in the temple’s architecture. As one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, this Tibetan Buddhist temple is considered to be “the Spiritual Heart of Lhasa” as well as the most holy temple among the top ten temples in China.
Jinci Temple, Shanxi
The Jinci Temple complex in Shanxi was first established 1400 years ago and grew into one of the most prominent temples in China. The complex is best known for Shengmudian, the Hall of Holy Mother which was constructed during the reign of Song Dynasty. The temple complex also includes a 3000 year-old cypress tree from the Zhou Dynasty era, 8 pillars coiled with hewed wooden dragons and a temple dedicated to Shuimu, the Taoist water spirit.
Hanging Temple, Shanxi
The 1500 year-old HangingTemple in Shanxi province of China is the only sacred temple where three Chinese traditions cohabit with each other. The legend says that the temple was constructed by a monk–known as Liaoran – during the end of Northern Wei Dynasty, only adding to its architectural wonders. Among the best temples in China, this historic temple is also named as one of the “World’s Top 10 Most Dangerous Architectures” by the Time Magazine. Also known as Xaun Kong Si among the locals, the hanging temple in Datong is a must-see tourist attraction in China.
The largest temple in theHangzhou’s Wulin Mountain region, LingyinTemple is well known for its ancient religious rock carvings;most famous of them is FeilaiFeng, also known as Peak that Flew Hither. Home to one of the oldest temples in China, Lingyin Monastery was founded by an Indian monk named Huili in 328 CE. The name of the temple, Lingyin literally means “Temple of the Soul’s Retreat”. The quiet and serene ambiance along with its historical significance earned Lingyin Si its spot on the list of holiest Buddhist temples in China.
Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi’an
Big Wild Goose Pagoda has cultural ties to India as the structure was built in 652 CE during the Tang Dynasty to store Buddhist statues and sutras that were brought from India. This AAAA tourist attraction in Xi’an Shi of Shaanxi providence of China is not only a World Heritage Site but also a holy and sacred place for Buddhist pilgrims. The historic Buddhist temple was renovated during the Ming Dynasty after it suffered heavy damages by an earthquake in 1556. The interior walls of this seven-storey pagoda are engraved with Buddhist statues and relics.
Longmen Cave Temples, Luoyang
Listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list as “an outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity”, Longmen Grottoes of Luoyang Shi is home to some of the quintessential examples of ancient Chinese art with 100,000 Buddhist statues, 2500 stelae, 60 pagodas, and 1400 ornate caves. The statues of Buddha were carved out of the limestone rocks that make up its geography. It is one of the popular tourist attractions in China as well as being considered the most breathtaking temples inthe country by some.
Wannian Temple, Mount Emei
One of the oldest Buddhist temples in China, the Wannian Temple is famous for Samantabhadra bronze statue as well as for the Beamless Brick Hall accommodating the holy statue. The Beamless Brick Hall was constructed by Wanli Emperor without any supporting wooden beams, in a style inspired by the architecture of India and Myanmar. Before being rebuilt in 1953 after a fire accident, the Wannian Temple was first built during the Eastern Jin Dynasty(317–420).
Daxiangguo Temple, Kaifeng
Daxiangguo temple in Kaifeng was initially known as the “Xiangguo temple” when it was first built in 555 CE. However, it was renamed “Daxiangguo temple” to honor the memory of Emperor Ruizong of Tang Dynasty in 712 CE, who reigned as Xiangwang or “the King of Xiang”. For playing a prominent role in the expansion of Buddhism in China, this historic Buddhist temple is considered as one of the incredible temples in China.
Tayun Mountain Temple, Shaanxi
If you’re planning a trip to Xi’an, you should definitely check out the temple on the top of Tayun Mountain in China. The Tayun Taoist Temple was built during the Zhengde Period of the Ming Dynasty (1505 -1521) for the Taoist Goddess of Mercy called Guanyin. Tayun Mountain is considered as the holy land of Taoism where the ancient Chinese religious tradition began. Located at an altitude of 5,460ft, the Tayun Temple complex also includes other ancient buildings like nine palaces, pagoda, and a royal guesthouse. Although not quite as popular as the other Chinese temples on this list, this ChineseMountain monastery is a favorite destination among spiritual groups and nature lovers.
Without seeing these historic temples in China, even a cheap round-trip to China won’t be fruitful. Before planning your trip to China, make sure you have added these top temples in China to your itinerary.