Gao Temple


This is one of China's most extraordinary temples. The three faiths of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism are revered here; it has an unusual roofline because its halls and shrines are stacked cluster by cluster on a slope. Check out the unnerving Arhat Hall (罗汉堂, Luóhàn Táng), which contains 500 arhats, many in grotesque guises and postures. The drawcard oddity is Dì Gōng (地宫), a maze-like shelter converted into a Buddhist hell.

The eerie, dimly lit tunnels contain numerous scenes of the damned having their tongues cut out, eyes poked out, being sawed in half or stoked in the fires of hell, while their screams echo all around. The ceiling is very low, so prepare to crouch your way through. Look for the signs to 'The Infernal'.

The name of the temple becomes clear after you exit the Hall of Heavenly Kings (天王殿, Tiānwáng Diàn) to climb some seriously steep steps to the halls high above. After your climb, you are greeted by woodwork in a blaze of gold, blue, green and vermilion paint. To the rear, a reclining Buddha lies supine in most relaxed fashion within the Sleeping Buddha Hall (卧佛殿, Wòfó Diàn), while side halls are dedicated to Guanyin and other Bodhisattvas as a host of obscure Taoist deities peek out from smoky shrine niches in the walls.

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