Despite Chengdu being a booming, ultra-modern city of over 11 million people, there are still corners of the city where it’s possible to take a stroll directly into Chengdu’s past. While sections of town still offer glimpses of traditional Sichuan architecture and work to preserve the city’s cultural past, the absolute best way to experience the feeling of old Chengdu is to tour inside of the temples which still lay scattered about town. As a city with thousands of years of history all resting in close proximity, here are the top Chengdu temples where visitors can gain an insight into the fascinating culture and history of Chengdu.
Beneath the “Peace Pagoda of A Thousand Buddhas,” visitors to Wenshu Temple can relax in the tea garden or marvel at the jade statue which was hand carried by a devout Buddhist monk all the way from Myanmar. Regarded as the best preserved Buddhist temple in the city, Wenshu is an oasis of calm among the chaotic pace of everyday commerce found just outside the temple walls.
Wuhou Memorial Temple (Martial Marquis Memorial Temple)
Almost considered to be a pilgrimage for fans of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel, this entire complex is devoted to the volatile history of the Three Kingdoms period as well as Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang, historical figures regarded as two of the most respected and illustrious leaders in the lengthy history of ancient China. Impeccably landscaped and home to cultural relics such as the 12 foot (3.7 meter) high “Tablet of Triple Success,” the surroundings are peaceful enough and the content informative enough to warrant a visit regardless of your Thee Kingdoms knowledge.
Named as a palace yet unquestionably a temple, the Qingyang Palace is one of the most revered Taoist temples due to its location near the boyhood home of Lao Tzu. Also known as the “Green Ram Temple,” the “Green Ram” from which it derives its name is actually a bronze sculpture of a peculiar creature with bodily features from all 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. One of the most popular temples in Chengdu, Qingyang Palace is another lovely spot for relaxing with a cup of tea or watching locals take part in a casual game of mahjong.
Also known as the Divine Light Temple, Baoguang is named for a moment when emperor Xizong of the Tang Dynasty is said to have witnessed the diving light emanating from the bottom of the temple. It’s mystifying history aside, this massive temple complex 11 miles (17.7 kilometers) outside of Chengdu also houses 16 courtyards and 577 sculptures, all of which display distinct postures and expressions and are unlike any found elsewhere in China.
Located north of the Chengdu city center, Zhaojue Temple boasts the largest Buddhist shrine found anywhere in Chengdu. This temple dates as far back as the 5th century, and previous temples on this same site were destroyed numerous times before the current version was eventually rebuilt during the Qing Dynasty. Zhaojue still maintains a monastery of over 200 Buddhist monks and is considered to be one of the model temples for which numerous Buddhist temples across Southeast Asia are constructed.