Red Snail Temple (Hong Luo Si) is located at the southern foot of Hongluo Mountain on the northern outskirts of Beijing's Huairou District. The temple, which is the largest Buddhist temple in northern China, was originally erected in CE 378, but was later renovated and enlarged during the Tang (CE 618-907) Dynasty. It's original name was Daming Temple (it was also referred to as Huguo Temple at the time, though a temple by that name has since been built in Anhui Province during the Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasty). The temple's current name is derived from a legend about a fairy maiden.
Red Snail Temple/ Daming Temple has been the most important Buddhist temple in northern China for the past 10 centuries, as the temple has served not only as a traditional buddhist place of worship, but also as a monastic center for the education of Buddhist monks and abbots throughout northern China, and indeed, monks and abbots have arrived from Japan and from locations farther afield in order to study at Hongluo Temple. The temple houses an account of its thirteen founders in a book entitled Nian Song Yi Gui. Hongluo Temple is also the natal temple of the renowned monk, Jinghua Qigong, founder of the qigong meditation method (to learn more about qigong, click here). Given its location on the outskirts of the nation's capital, Hongluo Temple was also frequented by Chinese emperors down through the country's history.
To the north of the temple lies Hongluo Mountain and to the south Hongluo Lake. The temple itself is divided into five courtyards, the central of which serves as the entrance to the temple complex. This central courtyard is surrouned by the Hall of Heavenly Kings, Mahavira Hall, the Meditation Room, and a hall where Buddhist scripture is taught. The other courtyards correspond to the four compass directions: the eastern, western, northern, and southern courtyards, whereof the former two deserve special mention. The eastern courtyard consists of a guestroom, dining rooms, a room for prolonging life ("Yanshoutang"), the Monk's Hut and an arena for practicing qigong. The western courtyard consists of the Tower Yard which contains the Ash Room for the remains of monks, as well as a bone pagoda.
Hongluo Temple's verdant environs have, within the past decade, increasingly become a sightseeing resort for Chinese and foreign tourists alike, and also a popular venue for Beijingers looking for a casual outing. The temple's many fruit trees as well as its trout stream also attract a number of Beijingers, especially during weekends. Cherry picking in early summer and trout fishing in late autumn always attract large numbers of visitors to the temple's "park". In response to this traffic, a scenic zone has been defined for the area, and a full range of tourist accommodations have been set up which can host banquets for groups up to 650 individuals, while the scenic zone's hotels and hostels can accomodate 300 visitors nightly.
The three most prominent scenic areas of the temple complex are called Imperial Bamboo, Male and Female Gingko, and Pines Entangled with Chinese Wisteria. Most of the visitors to Hongluo Temple do not fail, however, to pay a visit to the temple itself, where they light incense sticks in memory of the dead, as a gesture towards peace and harmony, etc.
Other seasonal attractions at the temple include flower exhibitions during the springtime, not to speak of long, springtime strolls across the the temple's expansive grasslands, something that is popular with city dwellers who have been cooped up in office towers all winter long, excursions during the autumn to view the chrysantemums in blossom as well as mountain climbing jaunts, and in the wintertime there is an annual temple fair and plum blossom exhibition. Summer is of course the season when most visitors flock to Hongluo Temple and its environs just to enjoy the pleasure of being out of doors.
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