Temple of the Chief Minister

Top choice in Henan

First founded in AD 555, this frequently rebuilt temple vanished along with Kaifeng in the early 1640s, when rebels breached the Yellow River’s dykes. During the Northern Song, the temple covered a massive 34 hectares and housed over 10,000 monks. The show-stopper today is the mesmerising Four-Faced Thousand Hand Thousand Eye Guanyin (四面千手千眼观世音, Sìmiàn Qiānshǒu Qiānyǎn Guānshìyīn), towering within the octagonal Arhat Hall (罗汉殿, Luóhàn Diàn), beyond the Hall of Tathagata (大雄宝殿, Dàxióng Bǎodiàn).

Fifty-eight years in the carving, the 7m-tall, gilded four-sided statue bristles with giant fans of 1048 arms, an eye upon each hand. Elsewhere in the temple you can divine your future by drawing straws (抽签, chōuqiān) or dine at the pleasant onsite vegetarian restaurant, to the left of the Hall of Tripitaka (藏经楼, Cángjìng Lóu). Keep an eye out for the bronze sculpture of literary character Lu Zhishen (鲁智深), a loyal but rash monk who had the strength to uproot a willow tree.

The rear of the complex is off-limits to visitors but you can get a good squiz at the pagoda from the upper reaches of Kaifeng Drum Tower.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Henan attractions

1. Kaifeng Drum Tower

0.26 MILES

Built in 1379, Kaifeng's drum tower was originally located west of here and this site belonged to the bell tower. In the late Ming dynasty, a sickly…

2. Kāifēng Fǔ

0.43 MILES

This reconstructed site of the government offices of the Northern Song has daily theatricals commencing outside the gates – the doors are thrown open and…

3. Shanshangan Guild Hall

0.46 MILES

This tiny, elaborately styled guild hall was built as a lodging and meeting place during the Qing dynasty by an association of merchants from Shanxi (山西),…

4. Longting Park


Site of the former imperial palace, this park is mostly gardens and a lake, into which hardy swimmers plunge in winter. Reached by a bridge, you can climb…

5. Kaifeng City Walls

1.25 MILES

Kaifeng is ringed by a relatively intact, much-restored Qing dynasty wall, which you can climb up at various points. There's precious little to see from…

6. Po Pagoda

1.47 MILES

This stumpy pagoda from 974 is the oldest Buddhist structure in Kaifeng and was originally a nine-storey hexagonal building, typical of the Northern Song…

7. Iron Pagoda Park

1.99 MILES

Kaifeng's most iconic landmark is a magnificent 11th-century Iron Pagoda (55m tall) at the centre of a pleasant park. The gorgeous, glazed-brick edifice,…

8. Kaifeng Museum

5.78 MILES

Housed in a colossal fortress 10km west of town, the Kaifeng Museum contains a modest collection of archaeological finds, woodblock prints and historical…