Qióngzhú Sì (Bamboo Temple)

sights / Religious

Qióngzhú Sì (Bamboo Temple) information

Kūnmíng , China
Qióngzhú S
Getting there
Mini Bus: from opposite the Yúnnán Fàndiàn
admission Y4
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Dating from the Tang dynasty, the temple burned down and was rebuilt in the 15th century. It was restored from 1883 to 1890, when Sichuanese sculptor Li Guangxiu fashioned 500 luóhàn (arhats or noble ones). These life-size clay figures are a sculptural tour de force - 70 incredible surfing Buddhas ride waves on mounts including blue dogs, crabs and unicorns.

The statues have been constructed with the precision of a split-second photograph - a monk about to chomp into a large peach (the face contorted almost into a scream), a figure caught turning around to emphasise a discussion point, another about to clap two cymbals together, yet another cursing a pet monster. So lifelike are the sculptures that they were considered in bad taste by Li Guangxiu's contemporaries (some of whom no doubt appeared in caricature), and upon the project's completion he disappeared into thin air.

Unfortunately you have to make do with peering your head round the door as the hall has been closed to visitors to stop local tourists throwing coins at the statues - an act that is thought to bring them good luck (it obviously didn't work). If the temple is quiet when you visit, then friendly monks might be persuaded to let you take a peek inside.