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.