The most fascinating temples in China

Mogao Caves, photo by Kzaral

In a sharp contradiction of all stereotypes that have ever circulated about Asia, China is one of the most culturally diverse places on the planet. Although much of the population is Buddhist (over 80%), there are many other religions that have their adepts in this vast country. So if you are interested in sacred places, then will see Buddhist temples, Tao shrines and Christian churches or Muslim mosques. Travelers who are interested in the beauty and/or spiritual meaning of Buddhist or Taoist places of worship can take their pick of the most fascinating temples in China.

White Horse Temple, Luoyang, Henan Province

White Horse Temple, photo by kafka4prez on Flickr

White Horse Temple is though to be the first Buddhist temple in China, founded in 68 CE under the rule of Emperor Ming. Despite being much more modest than the larger and more recent Buddhist temples in China, White Horse Temple is revered as the cradle of Buddhism. The complex is surrounded by exquisite gardens and the halls house beautiful statues of various deities.

Famen Temple, Famen, Shaanxi Province

Although there isn’t a clear consensus on when exactly the temples was built, it is obvious from the first glace that Famen Temple is pretty old, dating back to more than a thousand years ago. The temple is seen as the prototype of pagoda temples in the Guangzhou area, but it is most famous for housing the relics of Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism. In addition, there are many other displays of gold and silver objects, colored glaze and ceramics in the temple.

Shaolin Temple, Henan Province

Shaolin Temple, photo by tsc_traveler on Flickr

Of all the temples in China, perhaps the best known in the West is the iconic Shaolin Temple, famous for its association with Shaolin Kung Fu. The stunning Pagoda Forest of the Shaolin Temple is inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage List – no surprise, seeing as it comprises 228 stone or brick pagodas built over the course of several centuries. Many of these structure are invaluable and definitely worth seeing.

Mogao Caves, Gansu Province

The Temple of a Thousand Buddhas is actually a complex of almost 500 distinct temples hidden in a grotto system located in one of the largest oases of the ancient Silk Road. Some of the finest and oldest examples of Buddhist art can be found in these caves, including statues, wall paintings, painted silks, calligraphy and even music manuscripts.

Hanging Temple, Shanxi Province

Hanging Temple, photo by Jeremy Reding on Flickr

The Hanging Temples is perhaps the most fascinating temple in China, due to its peculiar positioning on the side of a cliff. This 1500 year old temple is dangerously perched on the edge of a precipice, but that’s not the only thing that makes it special, because it also contains a unique mix o Confucian, Buddhist and Taoist elements. The colorful temple nested in the cliff side is a magnificent sight, but the richly decorated interiors don’t disappoint either.

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