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Yuantong Temple: the Carnival of Buddhism and Daoism

Unlike the centre China where culture is consistent, complete and unanimous, Yunnan is famous for its diversity, not just in the sense of biodiversity or geology, but also in customs and religions.



Teemed with the most concentrated ethnic groups, Yunnan is a melting pot in China where different customs, beliefs and religions, converge. No wonder Buddhism and Daoism co-exist in Yuantong Temple, peculiarly and harmoniously.


Composed of green mountains, emerald water, white bridge, red pavilion, colorful fish and blossoms, all the elements typical of Chinese Gardening, you will feel like entering a Chinese Garden here. Among the six main Yuantong Temples in China, Kunming Yuantong Temple, the biggest and one of the oldest temples in Kunming, is most well-known. Sitting amid the prosperous city, it has functioned as a holy Buddhism site and an ideal haunt since 1200 years ago. By now, its significance and tranquility still remain unimpaired, with influence spreading to Southeast Asia. A hybrid of Buddhism branches: the Buddhism of Han people, Tibetan Buddhism and India Bali Buddhism (which prevails in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos and was introduced to Yunnan from India), can be spotted here. Thus, by appreciating the exquisite statues here, you can catch a glimpse of the epitome of Buddhism in a short time.



Yuantong Temple, the most famous Buddhism temple in Yunnan, is distinguished by the  traditional Chinese garden elements .  Temple always has a magic power, a power to pacify. Thus, people throng into this site, not only for its enticing scenery, but also for seeking the inner peace.


Potalaka: A Radiant Mountain Covered with white flowers...


Puluotuo Temple (Potalaka Temple), the forerunner of Yuantong Temple, was built in 765 during Tang dynasty by Nanzhao Kingdom to worship Guanyin, which is over 100 years ahead of Putuo. “Potalaka” means a radiant mountain covered with white flowers and the story of Yuantong Temple, begins here...


The glory of Puluotuo Temple lasted over 400 years before a war in Yuan dynasty which smashed it to the ground. From 1301 to 1319, a new temple rose from the ruins and was given the name inherited till today: Yuantong Temple. During Ming dynasty, it reached prime time after a massive restoration project mainly sponsored by Mushi Family, a local wealthy family who expanded it into the largest temple in Kunming. The layout we see today, however, was shaped by Wu Sangui, a famous general of early Qing dynasty. Among the main architecture complex include Copper Buddha Palace, Yuantong Shengjing Archway, Yuantong Palace, Octagon Pavilion, Tianwang Palace, Fangsheng Pool and Zoujiao Terrace, Yuantong Shengjing ( Yuantong Wonderland) Archway and Octagon Pavilion were masterpieces of that era. The year 1871 saw a flood swept away this temple and ruined the Guanyin Statue. Thus, the statue of Sakyamuni was invited into the Yuantong Palace to fill in the gap. To be honest, this is an odd phenomenon, for Yuantong palace is an exclusive homage site of Guanyin. To living up to its name, the Statue of Guanyin is placed into the Octagon Pavilion.


Maybe this magical land does posses super power and the people live here, are deemed as one of the happiest ethnic groups on earth. They have no ambitious to conquer, no matter regarding nature or race. Even Gods of various faiths in Yunnan seem to have good temper and show more tolerance. 

Flanked by two mountains: Wuhua Mountain in front and Luofeng Mountain (Yuantong Mountain) in back, Yuantong Temple sits in a valley cozily. After entering the Yuantong Shengjing Archway, you can have a bird’s-eye view of this temple. Unlike temple complex elsewhere which dwell in inaccessible places such as mountain peaks or steep cliffs, temples here sit at your foot adorably, waiting for you to unveil their myths and legend. The element of water instills Yuantong Temple with soul and distinguishes it from all temples elsewhere in China. Architectures emerge from the luxuriant forest and are connected by crooked corridors above water, which is rare phenomenon in China. Abounding in pavilions and corridors, Chinese ancient gardening finds the fullest expression here.




 Teemed with the most concentrated ethnic groups, Yunnan is a melting pot in China where different customs, beliefs and religions, converge. No wonder Buddhism and Daoism co-exist in Yuantong Temple, peculiarly and harmoniously.


Temple always has a magic power, a power to pacify. Thus, people throng into this site, not only for its enticing scenery, but also for seeking the inner peace. In 1956, the temple held a tooth of the Buddha here for a short time. The ceremonies at which the tooth relic were received and sent off were important events in the history of Yuantong Temple.


Yuantong Palace, the core of this temple, is composed of fabulous decorated arches and magnificent columns. Time seems have lingered here, and you can discern its original look of Qing dynasty. Three odd phenomena exist here: first, near the main Buddha statue stand two columns carved with vivid dragons: symbol of emperors. As we know, this rarely happens in other temples. A story associated with the dragon columns circulates like this: “Jianwendi Emperor,an emperor of Ming dynasty, was overthrown by his generals during a rebellion. To avoid the track and attack from the rebellion forces, he took refuge in this temple and lived with monks for a long time”; Second, Buddha and Daoism co-exist here harmoniously; Third, the old displaying way of the Guanyin statue is revived here: the companion of Guanyin, one pair of immortal children rare seen elsewhere, appears here, which indicating that Guanyin is the main Buddha.



The images of Dragon appear in Yuantong Temple, which is rare seen, for dragon is a symbol of emperor in secular world


Copper Buddha Palace: This Thai style temple shelters a unique Sakyamuni statue of India Buddhism. Measuring 3.5m high and weights 4.7 ton, it is different with the Sakyamuni statue in Yuantong Palace, because the later belong to Buddhism of Han people. Characterized by flowing lines and slim body, this statue is imbued with exotic flavor. Four frescos inside of this temple depicting the four stages of Sakyamni’s life: converge to Buddhism, become a Buddha, perform good deeds to people and nirvana. These frescos were donated by temples from centre China out of friendship. Behind the Copper Buddha Palace hides a treasure house of ancient steles and inscriptions which scatter along the cliffs, caves or temple complex. Besides, Yuantong Temple has a mysterious cave: Chaoyin Cave. According to local people, you can hear the murmuring sound of sea here, hence its name. Legend has it that long time ago, an evil dragon dwelled in the Chaoyin Cave and caused floods. To subdue this dragon, one Buddhism master casted spell on it and eliminated the flood successfully, and the terrace where he cited the spells is named as “Dragon Spell Terrace”(zou Jiao tai). 





the most delicate wood sculptures


Travel Tips of Yuantong Temple

Location: The south ridge of Yuantong Mountain.

Admission Fee: 5RMB

Opening hour: 8:00-18:00

Traffic: Located in downtown Kunming, you can reach it by taxi and it only costs less than 10RMB. Bus and trains are alternatives. Bus 101 from railway station Bus 4 and 59 from downtown lead to it.

Eating: There is a good vegetarian restaurant on the premises serving lunch and dinnert called “Ju Shi Lin”(居士林).

Yunnan is a place that will never bore you. Diversity is its label. Different faiths, customs, minorities here create the legendary and splendid culture with fatal attraction. This is a Thai-style Temple

Events: On the 1st and 15th of each lunar month, people gather here to take part in all kinds of Buddhist services.



Gallery of Kunming Yuantong Temple


 Author: Sophia   Posted on March 21, 2013


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