The largest of all Běijīng’s temples, and one of the oldest, 1700-year-old Tánzhè Temple dates from the Jin dynasty (AD 265–420), although it has been modified considerably since those days. It's attractively located amid trees in the mountains, and its ascending, terraced, temple grounds are overlooked by towering cypresses and pines, many of which are so old that their gangly limbs are supported by metal props. Visits around mid-April are recommended, as the magnolias are in bloom.
The temple itself clings to the base of a forested hill in a series of terraced courtyards and hallways, running along three connected axes; central, east and west. The central axis has the temple's main hall, the Mahavira Hall, behind which is a large courtyard, shaded by a 1000-year-old gingko tree, dubbed the Emperor Tree. Overlooking the courtyard (to the right) is a cute teahouse with seating on a wooden balcony. The Guanyin Pavilion at the back of the courtyard is the temple's highest point (with great views). The western axis includes two attractive octagonal altars, while the east contains the abbott's quarters, and was where visiting emperors would stay.
There are cheap nóngjiāyuàn (农家院; village guesthouses) in the road leading up to Tánzhè Temple, offering rooms for ¥100. These often also serve meals for around ¥40.
To get here, take the subway to Píngguǒyuán, then turn right out of exit D and catch the 931 bus (6am to 7.30pm, one hour, ¥5) from the first bus stop.