Tayuan Temple

Top choice in Shanxi

At the base of Spirit Vulture Peak (灵鹫峰, Língjiù Fēng), Tayuan Temple is the most prominent landmark in Wutai Shan and virtually all pilgrims pass through here to spin the prayer wheels at its base or to prostrate themselves, even in the snow. Even Chairman Mao did his tour of duty, staying in the Abbot Courtyard in 1948.

Beyond the Devaraja Hall (Hall of Heavenly Kings), with its candlelit gilded statue of Avalokitesvara (instead of Maitreya, who you usually find in this position), at the rear of the Daci Yanshou Hall is an altar where worshippers leave canned drinks as offerings to Guanyin.

Hung with small yellow bells chiming in the Wutai Shan winds, the Great White Stupa (大白塔, Dàbái Tǎ) dates originally from 1301 and is one of 84,000 stupas built by King Asoka, 19 of which are in China. The Great Sutra-Keeping Hall is a magnificent sight; its towering 9th-century revolving Sutra case originally held scriptures in Chinese, Mongolian and Tibetan.