Xiantong Temple

Top choice in Shanxi

Xiantong Temple – the largest temple in town – was erected in AD 68 and was the first Buddhist temple in the area. It comprises more than 100 halls and rooms. The Qianbo Wenshu Hall contains a 1000-armed, multifaced Manjushri, whose every palm supports a miniature Buddha. The squat brick Beamless Hall (无梁殿, Wúliáng Diàn) holds a miniature Yuan dynasty pagoda, remarkable statues of contemplative monks meditating in the alcoves and a vast seated effigy of Manjushri.

Further on, up some steps, is the blindingly beautiful Golden Hall, enveloped in a constellation of small Buddhas covering the walls. Five metres high and weighing 50 tonnes, the metal hall was cast in 1606 before being gilded; it houses an effigy of Manjushri seated atop a lion.

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The Qing emperor Shunzhi, who ruled from 1644 to 1661, was said to have been a monk at this temple over the river and backing onto Dailuo Peak.