Although there are a number of religions practiced in China, Buddhism is by far the most popular with approximately 185 million followers. There are three different kinds of Buddhism in the country – Han, Tibetan and Southern – which are portrayed through diverse architecture, art and literature. One of the best ways to see these different forms of Buddhism is by visiting the temples, of which there are around 13,000, home to almost 180,000 monks!
Wuhou Temple in Chengdu is the most famous temple of the Three Kingdoms and holds great importance within the political history of the era. Located at the end of Jinli Street, the ‘First Street of the Shu Kingdom’, it is also surrounded by traditional shops and wares.
The Temple of Heaven in Beijing is a unique piece of architecture in which 15th Century emperors used to perform ceremonies to ask the heavens for a good harvest. Along with a history of different occupants, both royal and military, the main circular building is made entirely of wood without using a single nail!
Big Wild Goose Pagoda was originally a five-story temple built during the Tang dynasty. After a handful of disasters, the temple had to be rebuilt and is now seven stories high at a height of 64 meters with panoramic views of Xi’an.
As a general rule, most of China is comfortably explored during spring and autumn. This is certainly true of Beijing, Chengdu and Xi’an which are all warm and dry during these seasons. Beijing is also nice during summer, whereas Chengdu and Xi’an are rather rainy.
As religion and places of worship still play a huge part in Chinese culture, you must practice respectful behavior when visiting these attractions. Make sure you dress modestly, covering your shoulders and knees, and you may need to remove your shoes and hat, too.
A good time to visit Chinese temples is at dawn as you can often see the monks and nuns going about their daily business or returning from their first prayers of the day.