China, Zhejiang province, Hangzhou, Lingyin temple, statues of Buddha

Getty Images/Photon RM

Lingyin Temple

Top choice in Hangzhou

Hangzhou’s most famous Buddhist temple, Lingyin Temple was originally built in AD 326, but has been destroyed and rebuilt no fewer than 16 times. During the Five Dynasties period (907–960) about 3000 monks lived here. The Hall of the Four Heavenly Kings is astonishing, with its four vast guardians and an ornate cabinet housing Milefo (the future Buddha). The Great Hall contains a magnificent 20m-high statue of Siddhartha Gautama (Sakyamuni), sculpted from 24 blocks of camphor wood in 1956 and based on a Tang dynasty original.

Behind the giant statue is a startling montage of Guanyin surrounded by 150 small figures, including multiple luóhàn (arhat), in a variety of poses. The earlier hall collapsed in 1949, crushing the Buddhist statues within, so it was rebuilt and the statue conceived. The Hall of the Medicine Buddha is beyond.

The walk up to the temple skirts the flanks of Feilai Peak (飞来峰, Fēilái Fēng, Peak Flying from Afar), magically transported here from India according to legend. The Buddhist carvings (all 470 of them) lining the riverbanks and hillsides and tucked away inside grottoes date from the 10th to 14th centuries and are as appealing as Lingyin Temple itself. To get a close-up view of the best carvings, including the famed ‘laughing’ Maitreya Buddha, follow the paths along the far (eastern) side of the stream.

There are several other temples near Lingyin Temple that can be explored, including Yongfu Temple and Taoguang Temple.

Behind Lingyin Temple is the Northern Peak (Běi Gāofēng), which can be scaled by cable car (up/down/return ¥30/20/40). From the summit there are sweeping views across the lake and city.

To get here, take local bus 7 from anywhere on the north shore of West Lake (¥2, 20 minutes, frequent). A taxi costs about ¥25.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Hangzhou attractions

1. China National Tea Museum

1.18 MILES

Not far into the hills of Hangzhou, you’ll begin to see fields of tea bushes planted in undulating rows, the setting for the China Tea Museum – 3.7…

2. Longjing Tea Village

1.43 MILES

The lush, green scenery around this tea village up in the hills southwest of West Lake makes for a wonderful break from the bustle of Hangzhou. Visitors…

3. Hangzhou Botanical Garden

1.56 MILES

With huge tracts of towering bamboo, flowering magnolias and other delightful plants and trees, these vast gardens make for lovely walks to the northwest…

5. Santai Pavilion


This pavilion was a popular feature in Ming dynasty (1368–1644) paintings of West Lake. Located at the top of Santai Hill, in the West Lake Scenic Area, a…

6. Wengjiashan Village

1.71 MILES

In the hills near Dragon Well Village, Wengjiashan Village is an alternative place in which to enjoy lóngjǐng tea at one of the village's many teahouses…

7. Yanxia Cave

1.86 MILES

Accessed via a trail from the road heading east out of Wengjiashan Village, this naturally formed limestone cave features Buddhist statues carved into the…

8. Quyuan Garden

2.01 MILES

On the northwestern shore of West Lake, this lovely collection of gardens spreads out over numerous islets and is renowned for its fragrant spring lotus…