Planning a trip to China, and you’d want to make a trip to the most popular and perhaps the biggest temples in China? Well, this is the perfect article for you.
How Many Temples in China?
Other than the Mountains, the Buddhist grottoes, and other religious sites such as the Leshan Giant Buddha, temples are very important parts of China’s culture, as well as their Buddhist Heritage. And with Buddhism having been practiced in China for thousands of years, it makes sense that there are thousands of temples all across China.
As per the last count, whose results were recorded on the State Administration for Religious Affairs website, China currently has about 33,652 Buddhist temples. This number is the second-largest for all the religious places of worship in China, and it comes in after almost 35,000 mosques. The protestant and catholic churches come in the 3rd and 4th positions, respectively.
Famous Temples in China
- White Horse Temple (Luo Yang, Henan)
The White Horse temple located near Luoyang is one of the stunning temples in China that is also of great historical significance, which is why most history buffs will have this temple on top of their list as their must-visit temple.
This temple features a number of intricately designed halls named as follows – Hall of Heavenly Kings, Hall of Guidance, Hall of Great Buddha, Hall of Mahavira, and also the Cool & Clear Terrace. The White Horse Temple is also famous because it is regarded as the Cradle land of all kinds of Chinese Buddhism.
This temple is quite old and was established in 68AD. It’s also believed that this temple was initially built as a summer resort meant for the Emperor called Liu Zhuang, who ruled during the time of the Han Dynasty between 202BC and 220AD (others place its construction between 25-220 but in 64AD). Today, this temple boasts a very long history that is well-studied and is essentially unparalleled among all other Chinese temples. There are many colorful legends and also tales that surround this temple, all of which are quite astounding, and they truly give off an actual sense of importance as a site of worship and religious learning throughout the very rich Chinese history.
This temple is popular for sightseeing, and Buddhist worship is ideal for Buddhist believers, as well as history lovers. The interesting collections of temple styles incorporated, the fact that it was the first Buddhist temple built in ancient China, and the tranquil surroundings of the White Horse Temple are all reasons for its popularity.
- Lingyin Temple (Hangzhou, Zhejiang)
This temple is known for the pavilions and the halls in the temple, the statues of famous Buddhists, as well as the ancient Chinese architecture, and also the ancient cultural relics. These, along with a large number of rock carvings and grottoes that are located adjacent to the Peak the Flew Hither, have all made this a very famous temple.
- Shaolin Temple (Dengfeng, Henan)
Any martial arts/ Kung Fu aficionado would recognize this temple’s name of his temple, and not just because of the art, but also because this temple is the birthplace of the most important cultural elements of China – the famous and the oldest martial arts style of Kung Fu. This temple is located near the historic city of Luoyang, and it’s where the original temple hosting the Shaolin school of Buddhism is located and where Shaolin Kung Fu originated thousands of years ago.
The Shaolin temple was also the very first residence of the monks – this dates as far back as the 6th century. These monks were highly respected soldiers and martial artists. And Kung Fu is still practiced in this temple. Notably, just this one aspect of the temple’s history is what keeps people going back there, and it’s why a visit to the Shaolin temple is always worth a visit.
Like the other temples, the Shaolin temple boasts a very impressive form of traditional Chinese architecture. Also, the Shaolin Temple is today one of the homes of UNESCO-certified Pagoda Forest that has a collection of at least 200 stones/ brick pagodas that still serve as tombs. These pagodas are at least 1,000 years old, and they remain a stunning sight. The location of the temple is also quite fascinating.
- Hanshan Temple (Suzhou, Jiangsu)
Hanshan Temple or the Cold Mountain Temple in Su Zhou Jiangsu was built during the Tang Dynasty’s reign. It’s quite popular for the rich Buddhist culture, and the bell rings. The bell rings are quite popular today, and they have made the temple a popular attraction for tourists. And as a Buddhist temple, there are several important statues and halls that make it even more spectacular and meaningful.
- Longxing Temple (Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province)
The Longxing Temple or Longxing Monastery is the other ancient Buddhist monasteries. It’s considered the Best Temple South of Beijing. It was built during Sui Dynasty’s era, and the grounds feature one of the oldest Stelas, which dates from the year the foundation of the monastery was put up. The architecture is impressive – it faces south, and there are three main halls (Hall of 4 Heavenly Kings, Hall of Relics, & Mani Hall), a precept platform, and 2 pavilions (Pavilion of Maitreya & Zhuanlunzang Pavilion).
- Qingjing Temple (Quanzhou, Fujian)
This temple was modeled after a mosque, specifically, the Islamic Chapel in Syria (Damascus), and is also called the Qingjing Mosque. It is, therefore, the oldest temple whose design is inspired by Arab architectural styles – this is one of the reasons for its popularity.
- Jokhang Temple（Tibet Lhasa)
The Jokhang Temple is also known as the Qoikang Monastery. It’s based in Tibet, and it’s also quite famous. Tourists travel to see this temple first because of the breathtaking alpine scenery and also because of the mystical atmosphere of this and other Tibetan religious sites.
This temple is considered the heart of Tibetan Buddhism, and it’s the most sacred and also the most important temple throughout the region. So, in addition to the tourists, worshippers and monks often flock this Tibetan temple because it gives a truly authentic feel of the Tibetan Buddhist practice. It has a fascinating history too, as it has been around since 652, and the architecture is out of this world.
This is a Buddhist temple that is found near the Beijing Botanical garden located only 20km from Beijing’s center. It was created in 1321; it has 3 halls with the best of Chinese and Buddhist architectural elements.
Notably, this temple was first established in the 7th Century AD and was called the Doulu temple, but it was destroyed and rebuilt many times. The temple’s current incarnation is from 1734, but the first sandstone carving was made in 1321.
- Thar Temple（Xining, Qinghai）
This temple is also called the Ta’ er Monstery, and it’s the most famous temple located in Qinghai.
- Jinshan Temple（Zhenjiang, Jiangsu)
Last on the list of the Jinshan Temple, which is located in Zhenjiang in Jiangsu. It was established during the reign of the Jin Dynasty but has gone through some name changes and reconstructions through the reigns of the Song, Yuan, and Qing Dynasties.
This Buddhist temple boasts very complex architectural elements, all designed in a very exquisite layout. The layout is also in an orderly fashion, and it features the Shanmen, 4 Heavenly Kings Hall, the Mahavira Hall, the Hall of Guru, Gifeng Pavilion, Furong Tower, and the Cishou Pagoda.