5 Beautiful Temples to Visit in China

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5 Beautiful Temples to Visit in China

China is one of the world’s most innovative and progressive countries, yet step away from the modernity and you’ll discover a country that maintains a firm grip on its ancient cultures and spirituality. There’s hundreds of fascinating temples and shrines scattered across this great land that offer a glimpse into the centuries-old philosophies of Buddhism and Taoism. To see them all could take a lifetime, so we’ve chosen five of the most beautiful to get you started.

Dafo Temple, Gansu Province

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Constructed during the Western Xia dynasty, this 2nd-century temple is one of the last-surviving wooden landmarks from the era located in China. It’s often called the “Great Buddha Temple”, a reference to the 115-foot-long sleeping Buddha that greets you in the main hall. Sculptures of arhats, who are Buddhists that have gained enlightenment, surround the giant statue, as do murals of classic Chinese stories such as Journey to the West and Classic of Mountain and Seas. Legend states that a Yuan Dynasty queen lived there and gave birth to the Mongolian warrior Kublai Khan.

Hanging Temple (Xuankong Si), Shanxi Province

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Little can prepare you for your first sight of this series of pagodas set precariously on a cliff face at the base of Mount Heng. Time Magazine included the temple in its list of Top 10 Precarious Buildings, and it is easy to see why when studying the interconnecting walkways and long supporting stilts, which are embedded into the rocks. Despite giving the impression that it will fall at any moment, the temple has stood firm for 1,400 years. Even more impressive when it is said the foundations were laid by a solitary monk. In addition to its magnificent structure, the temple is the only place in China where Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism are all practiced.

Labrang Monastery, Gansu Province

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Established in 1709, Labrang Monastery plays host to the largest group of monks outside of Tibet and, at one point, provided residence for up to 4,000 of them. A great way to experience its serene beauty is to follow the inner kora, a 2.2-mile pathway of prayer wheels that pass numerous chapels and temple halls. Guided tours provide access to some halls and the chance to observe the monks’ activities first hand. Get here at sunrise to see the monks praying, or come at dusk to hear them chanting sutras.

Longmen Cave Temples, Henan Province

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On an almost 1-mile long stretch of the Yi River waterfront is a collection of 2,300 caves that have existed since around 493 A.D. Each cave is etched into limestone cliffs and features some of the finest known examples of art from the Northern Wei and Tang dynasties. There’s over 110,000 statues and 60 Buddhist pagodas. Among the most striking statues are the huge Buddhas in the Guyangdong Cave and Three Binyang Cave. Such is the value of the caves that they have been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Temple of Heaven, Beijing

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In the heart of Beijing is a masterpiece of Chinese architecture that dates back to 1406. The main temple, the triple-tier circular Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, stands magnificently on a square marble base. This square-round contrast stems from the ancient Chinese belief of a round heaven and square Earth. The four inner, 12 middle, and 12 outer columns of the hall’s brightly-colored interior symbolize the four seasons, 12 months, and 12 Chinese zodiac hours. Landscaped gardens and pine woods encompass the temple and the entire complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3 Religious Temples With a Dark History

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

3 Religious Temples With a Dark History

While many religious sites are viewed as beautiful, blessed places of worship, some of them are hiding a very dark history underneath their bejeweled exterior. Some temples have origin stories that include killing and/or threats of mythical proportions, and others are even said to be a path to Hell instead of Heaven. Here are three religious temples that just might give you more nightmares than miracles.

Tanah Lot Temple, Bali

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Built in the 16th century, the Tanah Lot temple in Bali is one of seven ocean temples built for the purpose of honoring the “spirits of the sea.” It is a beautiful piece of architecture, looking much like a ship made of stone, but its origin story is a rather dark one. According to legend, Niratha, a Brahmin priest, created the temple. Knowing it needed to be protected from evil, he took off the sashes he was wearing and threw them into the water, where they turned into snakes. To this day, scores of sea snakes surround Tanah Lot, protecting it from dark energies – and from people who just hate snakes. To make this temple even more secure, it is only accessible when the tide is low and a land bridge is revealed. Unfortunately, you can’t go inside unless you follow the Hindu religion, but either way you can observe the beautiful temple and its snake guardians from a short distance.

Cappella Sansevero, Italy

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Cappella Sansevereo is technically a “chapel” instead of a “temple,” but it deserves to be included on this list thanks to its pure creepiness. Capella Sansevero in Naples, Italy began as a kind of temple where the Sansevero family could worship God privately, before it ultimately became their burial chapel. But this is not the dark part. This chapel is home to two “anatomical machines”: a male and a pregnant female skeleton with a perfectly preserved circulatory system still present in their bodies (there also used to be a fetus to go with them, but it has since vanished). These anatomical machines were made by an anatomist named Giuseppe Salerno and collected by another, much spookier man named Raimondo di Sangro, who was the head of the Masonic lodge in Naples and believed to be some sort of dark wizard. The locals believed that he could make blood out of nothing at all, and that he frequently murdered people to experiment on them. While he didn’t make “Adam and Eve,” there is a rumor that they are actually two of his servants that he killed so that Salerno could make his sculptures, which now lurk beneath the main part of the chapel.

Mount Osore, Japan

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