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Buddhism and Confucianism are a big part of China's culture and history. Although not everyone has the same beliefs, much of China's beliefs and traditions are based on Buddhism and Confucious. They have left their mark throughout China in the form of these amazing structures and artworks, here are five temples that are must-sees in China!
The Temple of Heaven is located in Beijing and is one of the most visited temples in China. Also known as Tiantan, this temple was built in the 1400s by the same Emperor who constructed the Forbidden City. It was later renamed to the Temple of Heaven by the Jiajing Emperor who built three other temples in Beijing; the Temple of Sun in the east, the Temple of Earth in the north and the Temple of Moon in the west. In ancient China, the emperor is often referred to as the son of heaven and showing respect was crucial, thus the Temple of Heaven was used as a place to hold ceremonies and prayers to be sacrificed to the heavens and pray for good harvests.
The Jokhang Temple is located in Lhasa Tibet and is considered one of the most sacred temples in Tibet. Surrounded by the Barkhor Square, the Jokhang Temple is the heart of the city, and the area is a center commerce in Lhasa. This Buddhist temple was built in 652 in the Tang Dynasty, the then King of Tibet wanted to promote Buddhism and make friendly relations with the neighboring countries. He married a princess of Nepal and a princess of the Tang dynasties and built the Jokhang Temple as a place for them to live. Initially comprising of 8 shrines, over the years the Jokhang Temple now consists of 4 stories, the central Buddha hall where there is a life-size Buddha, and an annex building constructed in the 11th century. The temple has been worked on by many Nepalese artists, and its architectural style is a mix between Indian vihara design, Tibetan, and Nepalese design, making it a truly unique structure.
The Shaolin Monastery or Shaolin Temple is a Buddhist temple located in the Henan province of China. It is best known over the world for its martial arts, but first and foremost it is a school of Buddhism. The temple covers an area of over 57600 square meters and consists of 7 main halls and 7 additional halls around it. The most notable are the Shanmen Hall where you’ll find a tablet inscribed by the Emperor Kangxi of the Qing dynasty that reads Shaolin Temple. The hall of heavenly kings, whose gates are guarded by Buddhist warriors called Vajra, inside you’ll find statues of the Four Heavenly Kings who help the troubled, bless the people, and inspect people’s behavior. There is also the Mahavira hall where important celebrations and regular prayers are held. Lastly, there is the pagoda forest where you’ll find the resting blasé for Buddhist dignitaries throughout history.
Built as a legacy for Confucius, the Temple of Confucius is a temple of worship for Confucius and the sages and philosophers of Confucianism. The temple in Qufu, Shandong province is the largest and most renowned in East Asia and has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1994. This temple is one of the largest in China, covering an area of over 16000 square meters and consist of 460 rooms. The main temple consists of 9 courtyards, kuiwen hall, sing tan pavilion, da cheng hall, and many gates like the lingxing gate and shengshi gate. This temple used to be the former residence of Confucius, but two years after his passing it was converted into a temple by Prince Lu of the Zhou dynasty. Later in 205 BC, Emperor Gao of the Han dynasty became the first emperor to go to Qufu Confucius Temple to offer sacrifices and many other emperors in the years to follow did the same. In history, over 12 different emperors paid personal visits while 100 others sent their deputies.
Hanging Temple also known as Xuankong Temple is a Buddhist monastery built into the side of Mount Hengshan in Datong city that appears to be hanging off the mountain. Built in 491 and rebuilt in the Qing dynasty from 1368-1644, the hanging temple has survived more than 1400 years. It is an architectural wonder that has attracted experts from all over the world to examine how the structure was erected. Chinese legend says that one monk named Liao Tan started the construction of the temple, but it was extended and repaired over the years to what we see today. Embodying the achievements of the Chinese people, this unique temple is a must visit if you’re in Xi’an!
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Monica is a Canadian-Chinese travel blogger and marketer that has spent time in Beijing, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou,and Xitang, Shanghai. When she isn't watching YouTube videos, you can find her writing or creating videos.
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