Guanlin Temple is famous for being the final resting place of Guanyu, the famous general of the Shu Kingdom during the Three Kingdom Period (220–280). The central temple, named Zhibo, was first constructed during the period of Emperor Wanli in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and was then further expanded to its present scale during the period of Emperor Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912).
General Guanyu (160-219) is one of the few people in Chinese history who enjoys great respect by Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism alike. He is also known as Guan Yunchang, and was a senior general of the Shu Kingdom (today’s Sichuan Province) in the Three Kingdom Period. Legend has it that after Sun Quan, founder of the Eastern Wu state, killed Guanyu and submitted his head to the warlord Cao Cao, Cao Cao buried it right in Guanlin. During his lifetime, Guanyu was famous for his loyalty and courage. Throughout the generations, people have regarded him as a legendary and noble hero, worshipping him like a god.
The Guanlin Temple historical site covers more than 66,000 square meters and consists of more than 150 small houses and long corridors. There are also more than 70 dramatic steles from ancient times, and 4 glorious memorial archways. Sculpture enthusiasts can enjoy more than 110 stone and iron lions of different sizes. In addition, there are about 800 old cypress trees on the grounds, roughly 10 historical statues, and just 1 tomb in the temple. Indeed, Guanlin Temple and all of its elements makes it a fantastic historical destination.
The temple’s structure is very organized. On the central axis, from the south to the north, stands the dance hall, main gate, first gate, stone-paved path leading to the main hall, platform, hall for sacrificial ceremonies, main temple, second temple, third temple, stone pai-lou, stone booth, and General Guanyu’s gravestone. On the east-west latitude, there is the symmetrically erect belfry, drum tower, China Table, censer for burning incense, side hall, covered corridor, and more.
The stone-paved path between the main gate and the first gate is protected on both sides by 104 masterly carved stone lions, all posing in magnificent stances. Behind the third temple, a stone pai-lou was set up and the stele on it reads the scripture "the tomb of Hangshoutinghou." The covered corridor on the east-west line, whose length on both sides exceeds 90 meters, displays precious stone inscriptions and the dramatic epitaphs of dynasties long gone.
Further inside can be found countless incredible inscriptions from the beginnings of the temple’s history. There is one orderly room for displaying inscriptions and inscription on various memorial tablets, and one room for showing the artworks of stone inscriptions. The total number of these craftworks, including inscriptions, inscriptions on memorial tablets, and stone inscriptions amounts to over 2,000.
They present a full picture of the art of stone inscription. In particular, the stone houses of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220), stone coffin of the northern Wei Dynasty, and stone lions of the Sui Dynasty (581-618) are considered the rarest and most precious of the collections. There are more than 1,000 table and epitaph inscriptions, of which most of their contents are closely related with important historical events and crucial historical figures.
As for the tomb of Guanyu, the surface is an octagon, its height reaches 10 meters, and it covers 250 square meters. At one point, it was walled off. The stele before his tomb is 4.8 meters long, where underneath can be found a stone tortoise, and a stone dragon above it. An inscription by Chifeng shows prominently on the stele, who was conferred the title of nobility by Emperor Kangxi.
The pavilion protecting the stele is an octagon as well. Its complicated structure and unique features are an outstanding example of pavilion architectural art of the Qing Dynasty. Before the stele and pavilion stands a stone arch table whose height reaches 10 meters and with a width of 6 meters. It is inscribed with the words, "The tomb of the general Hangshouting."
Today, Guanlin Temple is known as the museum of ancient arts in the city of Luoyang.