Taiyuan Tourist Attractions

Taiyuan lies in the center of Shanxi province in northern China, on the northern edge of the fertile Taixuan Basin.

Provincial Museum

Located in the east of the city, the Provincial Museum is housed in a former Jin (1115-1234) temple; on display are finds from the Neolithic Age, as well as bronzes, lacquer-work and paintings from various dynasties.
Another department of the museum can be found in the Chungjang Gong Palace to the west.

Temple of Respect for Kindness

The Temple of Respect for Kindness opposite the Provincial Museum dates from the Tang era (618-907). In 1381 Zhu Gang, the third son of the emperor of the day, ordered that it be completely rebuilt in honor of his mother, the empress. From the same period are the three Buddha statues, each 8.5m/28ft high, of Guanyin, Goddess of Mercy (with a thousand arms, a thousand eyes and eleven faces) and of the bodhisattvas Wenshu and Puxian, which are to be found in the Hall of Great Compassion (Dabei Dian). The temple also contains large numbers of Buddhist scriptures from the Song, Yuan and Ming period (10th-17th C).

Temple of the Double Pagodas

The Temple of the Double Pagodas in the southeast of Taiyuan was so named because of its two pagodas, each 54m/177ft high, which serve as the city's emblem.
A winding internal staircase enables visitors to climb up to the 13th floor of either pagoda, from where they can enjoy a superb view over the city.

Surroundings

Temple of Jinci

25km/15.5mi southwest of Taiyuan, at the foot of Mount Xuanwengshan near the source of the Jin river, lies the Temple of Jinci. This mighty shrine, thought to be dedicated to Prince Shuyu, was founded about 1400 years ago, but has been frequently extended over the centuries right up to the present day. It now comprises about 100 halls, palaces, towers and pavilions. When the town was destroyed during the conflicts of 979 the temple remained unscathed.
Entrance to the complex is to the south, near the old Gateway of the Clear View (Jingqing Men). Visitors then go direct to the Terrace of the Water Surface (Shuijing Tai), which is used as a theater, and will see the Shengying Lou Pavilion on the left. They then pass over the Bridge of the Meeting with the Immortals (Huixian Qiao) and come to the Terrace of the Iron Men (Jinren Tai), in the corners of which stand four iron statues dating back to the 11th C. A doorway then leads to the Opera Hall (Xiandian; 12th C) and across the Flying Bridge, supposed to symbolize a bird in flight, to the Hall of the Holy Mother.

Hall of the Holy Mother

The Hall of the Holy Mother (Shengmu Dian) was built between 1023 and 1031 in memory of Yijiang, the mother of Prince Shuyu. It contains 43 painted terracotta statues; the largest in the wooden niche represents the Holy Mother, the other 42 are ladies of her court in varying poses and with different facial expressions.
Near the temple stands an extremely ancient cypress tree, which dates back to the Zhou era (1066-221 BC). Another very ancient tree, an acacia which is some 1400 years old, stands a few yards away in the Temple of Guan Gong.
Further to the west is the 16th C Temple of the Goddess of Water (Shuimu Lou).

Spring of the Fountain of Youth

In front of the temple bubbles the Spring of the Fountain of Youth (Nanlao Quan), the main source of the Jinshui river; nearby towers an eight-storied 6th C pavilion.
Southeast of the Temple of the Holy Mother the Shanli Quan Spring also bubbles forth under a pavilion.

Caves

To the north of the Temple of Jinci lies a system of caves, in one of which the academic and calligrapher Fu Shan (1608-84) is thought to have lived.
To the southeast of Shanli Quan Spring stands the Temple of Prince Shuyu of the Tang (Tang Shuyu Ci), and in front of it is the Pavilion of the Tang Stela (Tangbei Ting), which houses an inscribed pillar with 1023 characters engraved by the Emperor Taizong in 646.

Mount Wutaishan

Mount Wutaishan is one of the four mountains which are holy to Buddhists, the other three being Putuoshan in Zhejiang province, Jiuhuashan in Anhui province and Emeishan in Sichuan province. The word ''wutai'' means ''five terraces''; the mountain was so called because of its five terrace-shaped peaks. The north peak (Dou Feng), at 3058m/10,036ft, is the highest in the chain. Mount Wutaishan lies some 200km/77mi from Taiyuan, from where there is an overland bus service which passes through some impressive mountain scenery en route to Wutaishan.
As long ago as the Eastern Han period (24-220) there was a monastery on the mountain dedicated to Wenshu Pusa, God of Wisdom; over the centuries the number of monasteries has increased to several hundred. From the beginning of the Tang era (618-907) the monks living on Mount Wutaishan maintained close contact with their fellow believers in Japan, Indonesia and Nepal. Mount Wutaishan enjoyed a further halcyon period during the Ming period (1368-1644).
Today there are 58 monasteries in all on the mountain, most of them containing Buddhist sculptures. Attempts are at present being made to restore those buildings which remain.

Temple of the Manifestation

The Temple of the Manifestation (Xiantong Si), north of Taihuai, a village in the central part of Mount Wutaishan, is one of the oldest Buddhist temple complexes anywhere in the world. It was founded in the 1st C AD and later frequently altered and extended until its total area reached its present 8ha/20acres. Numerous ancillary buildings are grouped around the seven main temples. Note particularly the Bronze Hall and Bronze Pagodas.

Temple of the Pagodas

The Temple of the Pagodas (Tayuan Si) lies to the south of the Temple of the Manifestation, of which it originally formed a part. It was in the Ming period (1368-1644) that it became a temple in its own right. It was then that the 50m/164ft high pagoda - the emblem of Mount Wutaishan and which houses a Shakyamuni relic - and the wooden arched gateway at the entrance were built.

Monastery of the Bodhisattva

According to a legend dating back to the Northern Wei period (386-534), the Monastery of the Bodhisattva (Pusa Ding) north of the Temple of the Manifestation on Lingiju Feng Peak was the residence of Wensha Pusa. The Kangxi and Qianlong emperors stayed here quite often and left behind inscriptions carved on two stelae which can still be seen today. Particularly impressive is the rectangular stone tablet, measuring 6m/20ft tall and 1 x 1m (39 x 39 in.) across, with Qianlong's calligraphy in four languages (Chinese, Manchurian, Mongolian and Tibetan).

Temple of the Manjushri Image

The Temple of the Manjushri Image (Shuxiang Si), about 1km/1100yd south of the Monastery of the Bodhisattva, was founded during the Tang era (618-907), but rebuilt in 1487 following a fire.

Wenshu Ge Pavilion

The Wenshu Ge Pavilion contains a 9m/30ft high figure (1496) of Wenshu Pusa (Bodhisattva Manjushri) seated on a lion's back. The other 503 statues (three Buddhas and 500 Luohans) also date from the same period.

Temple of Rahula

The Temple of Rahula (Luohou Si), 1km/.5mi east of the Temple of the Manifestation, was originally built during the Tang period (618-907), but re-built in 1492. All the buildings and statues are from the latter period. According to tradition, every year on the 14th day of the sixth lunar month Rahula, son of Shakyamuni, would organize a masked ball to mark the anniversary of Manrushri's birth. This tradition was carried on for many centuries after Rahula's death.

Temple of the Radiance of Buddha

The Temple of the Radiance of Buddha (Foguang Si), built in the 5th C, lies in the southwestern part of Mount Wutaishan.
Paintings and sculptures from the Tang period (618-907) can be seen here.

Monastery of Eternal Joy

The Taoist Monastery of Eternal Joy near Ruicheng, a small town 400km/250mi southwest of Taiyuan, was originally built between 1247 and 1262 by the Huanghe near Yongle, the birthplace of the immortal Taoist Lü Donghin (8th C). The whole complex of buildings we see today took about 120 years to complete; the famous wall-paintings are also from that same period. In 1959, when the Sanmenxia hydraulic engineering project was carried out in the region around Yongle, the monastery was moved to the slopes of a picturesque hill near Ruicheng.
Today the complex comprises four temple buildings erected in a line going from north to south, which have wall-paintings covering an area of some 960sq.m/10,300sq.ft.
The first temple, the Hall of Dragons and Tigers (Longhu Dian), contains murals depicting deities, court officials and warriors.
The 1325 wall-painting in the adjoining Hall of the Three Pure Ones (Sanqinq Dian), which is dedicated to the three major Taoist deities, is 95m/312ft long and 4m/13ft high. It bears the title ''Homage to the Founder of Taoism'', and shows 286 immortal souls prostrated before the Great Wise One.
The walls of the Hall of the Pure Yang (Chunyang Dian), which is also known as the Hall of Lü Dongbin, are decorated with 52 frescos dating from 1358 which portray the life of this Taoist saint.
In the Hall of Chongyang Dian visitors can admire 49 wall-paintings which are dedicated to Wang Chongyang (1112-70), a spiritual Taoist leader.

Temple of the Two Forests

This temple 7km/4.5mi southwest of Pingyao covers an area of some 1.5ha/4.25acres; founded in 571, it was rebuilt during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). There are three courtyards around which are grouped ten temple halls. Its 2052 clay sculptures make it a truly representative museum of the Buddhist sculptor's art.

Medieval Town of Pingyao, China

The little town of Pingyao, 107km/66mi south of Taiyuan, is only 2.1sq.km/.75sq.mi in area, and has succeeded in retaining its medieval appearance and atmosphere for more than 600 years. Its defensive walls, streets, houses and temple buildings are for the most part well-preserved. The town walls are 6157m/18,471ft in length, 6-10m/20-33ft high, defended by six gate-towers, 72 small watch-towers and 3000 merlons which represent the most famous disciples of Confucius and his 3000 pupils.

Temple of the Great Victory

The Temple of the Great Victory, 200km/124mi southwest of Taiyuan near the town of Hongtong, includes the well-known Pagoda of the Flying Rainbow (Feihong Ta). This originally dated from the year 147, but was destroyed together with all the other temple buildings in a heavy earthquake in 1303. Between 1515 and 1527 a new pagoda - 47m/154ft high, octagonal in shape, with three stories, and clad with glazed bricks colored red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet - was erected on the old foundations. Visitors who climb the internal staircase can admire the richly-decorated walls.

Caves on Mount Longshan

The Taoist caves on Mount Longshan, 20km/12.5mi southwest of Taiyuan, date from the Yuan period (1271-1368). They contain more than 40 sculptures and inscriptions.

Hanging Temple

Some 60km/37mi southwest of Taiyuan, in the Jiaocheng district, a Buddhist temple dating from 472 has been built on a steep rock-face - hence its name. It is the Shrine of the Denomination of the Land of the Pure (Jingtuzong). In the second half of the 19th C it was almost completely burned down; only the Pavilion of a Thousand Buddhas (Qianfo Ge) remained intact. The edifice was restored to its former glory when it was rebuilt in 1955, and it is now home to more than 70 sculptures in wood, clay and wrought-iron.
The Hall of the Heavenly Kings (Tianwang Dian) dates from 1605 and is the oldest building in the complex.

Village of the Apricot Blossom, China

The village of Xinghuacun, 105km/65mi southwest of Taiyuan, is known worldwide for its Fen Jiu, distilled from corn, using pure water from the Heavenly Spring (Shenjing). Such spirits have been produced in Xinghuacun for 1500 years and still make an important contribution to its economy.

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