Qinglian Temples


This pair of Green Lotus Temples are among China's oldest in Pure Land Buddhism. They're celebrated for their gorgeous Tang and Song dynasty painted sculptures, some of which, unfortunately, you have to ogle behind glass. The 'young' temple, founded by a monk 1600 years ago, has a beautiful courtyard, 1000-year-old gingko trees and wooden structures all around – nothing grandiose, but poised and elegant. The older temple has a Ming dynasty Tibetan stupa and a main hall with rare painted sculptures.

The young temple has a graceful Hall of Maitreya built in Tang dynasty (AD 833) as the main hall of the complex; it was subsequently refashioned into a sutra pavilion in the Song. You can't enter, but do check out the brawny gods perched on the four corner brackets under the eaves; they belong to the original pavilion.

The old temple is smaller and less picturesque, but it is here that the compound's gems can be found – seven large painted statues from the early Tang dynasty, including that of Sakyamuni Buddha. They're one of three clusters of Tang dynasty religious painted sculptures remaining in China. Sadly, they're kept behind glass and with the sun's reflection, it is very difficult to get a good look. There's a smaller wooden structure across the courtyard from the main hall that was being restored at the time of research. According to photos of the interior plastered near the entrance, there are ancient painted sculptures inside too.

The Qinglian Temples are located 17km southeast of downtown Jincheng. The old temple is about a 10-minute walk downhill (500m) from its younger counterpart. Bus 21 comes to the upper temple about three times a day (¥6, one hour, 7.30am, 10.30am. 4.30am) and returns to Jincheng at 9am, 3pm, and 5.30pm.

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