Located in Fanshan District, southwest of Beijing city, Yunju Temple is about 70 kilometers from the downtown area of the city. The whole scenic spot covers an area of over 70,000 square meters, including not only the temple, but also the scripture caves and pagoda groups. These great historical treasures play a very important role in the Chinese Buddhism culture. On March 4th, 1961, Yunju Temple became one of the tourist attractions, which were earliest to be under state-level protection in China. Later in the year 1992, it became one of the Beijing Tourism Wonders because of its abundant conservations of stone sculptures of Buddhism scriptures. In the same year, it was listed by the Chinese government as one of the candidates bidding for the World Cultural Heritage.
Yunju Temple was first built in the early Tang Dynasty, and later it was rebuilt and renovated for several times. Nowadays there are five courtyards and six groups of architectures inside. On the two sides of the temple, there are annex buildings, imperial palaces, and living rooms for the monks. A pagoda has been built respectively on the northern and southern sides of the temple. Facing the west, Yunju Temple is surrounded by mountains and lakes, and as a result, creates a grand and splendid atmosphere. This temple has also been nicknamed 'the greatest Buddhism temple in north China'. However, unfortunately in 1942, Yunju Temple was destroyed by invading Japanese troops and the whole area became ruins. In 1985, the Renovation and Afforestation Committee of Yunju Temple was set up by the local government and the first phase of the project was carried out. Trees were planted in the surrounding areas. Later from 1998, the second phase of renovation project began and some of the stone scriptures were collected and returned to the temple. Today the temple has been fully rebuilt as it used to be.
There are four pagodas here built in the Tang Dynasty (618AD-907AD), and there are detailed records about the construction time. Each pagoda is in a dimetric design with seven stories. Some of them have only one layer of eave, and some have more. Judging from appearance, they look almost the same with each other. Different sculptures of Buddha statues could be found on the pagoda bodies, while on the walls inside the pagoda which was built in the year 727AD, the sculpture of a serving person could be seen. He has deep eyes and big nose, so it is believed that he is of a foreigner’s appearance in the Tang Dynasty. Because at that time, China communicated and traded with middle and western Asian countries, and many foreigners worked in China as government officials or servants. The sculptures on the pagodas are all in bright colors and smooth streaks, symbolizing the prosperous communications between China and other countries in the Tang Dynasty.
Yunju Temple is also a place with abundant Buddhism scriptures. There are scriptures written or carved on stones, woods and paper, and these three kinds of Buddhism scriptures are called 'three wonders' of the temple. The stone sculptures of Buddhism scripture were first carved in the year 605AD in the Sui Dynasty by Jing wan, who was a famous monk at that time. Monks including him decided to carve the Buddhism scriptures on stones to show their determination to develop and protect their religion. This big project lasted for quite a long time, when these monks died, other monks continued to do it. In the following five dynasties after the Sui Dynasty, monks continued their work for more than 1000 years and 1,122 series of scriptures including 3,572 books were carved on the stones. When finished, there were all together 14,278 pieces of stone scriptures. This large scale of work with such a long history has been rarely seen in the whole world. It is therefore a miracle in the world cultural history. It could be compared with the Great Wall and the Grand Beijing-Hangzhou Canal.
As a series of jobs carving Buddhism classics lasting for over one thousand years, the stone scriptures in Fangshan county of Beijing have been playing a very important role in the study of Buddhism history, ancient Chinese politics, society, economy, culture and art. In addition, they are of high calligraphic and artistic values. The mountain where the scripture caves are located is about 450 meters high. On the mountain waist, there are nine caves where numerous scriptures have been preserved inside. The biggest cave is Leiyin Cave, which is wide and open. Most of the scriptures in this cave are the earliest ones, carved by monk Jing wan. There are four stone columns here, on which 1,056 pieces of Buddha statues are carved. As a result, they are called 'one thousand Buddha columns'. In total, there are 4,196 pieces of stone scriptures here in this mountain. In the same mountain there are two pagodas from the Tang Dynasty. In addition, there are carved stone wells and tablets with inscriptions of the Sui and Tang Dynasties as well as other numerous historical relics here.
Today Yunjun temple has become a famous Buddhism monastery both at home and abroad, enjoying the reputation of 'the No.1 Temple in north China'. With its serene and unique environment, attractive and mysterious sceneries, and deep and abundant Buddhism culture, Yunju Temple has been considered not only as a well-known tourist attraction but also an auspicious place in China.
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