Not packed in a bus. Not herded with a group. Self guided walk is the SAFEST way to sightsee!

Walking Tour: Beijing Temples (Self Guided), Beijing

Chinese temples are of unique beauty and have withstood many dynasties, beginning with the Qin Dynasty. Because the temples have always been connected to the imperial families, many of them were destroyed by 1949 when the last dynasty ended. Nevertheless, a great number of beautiful temples with great history still stand in Beijing. Take the following tour to discover the most famous temples in the city:
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Walking Tour: Beijing Temples Map

Guide Name: Walking Tour: Beijing Temples
Guide Location: China » Beijing (See other walking tours in Beijing)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 4 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 9.4 Km or 5.8 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Imperial Ancestral Temple / Working People's Cultural Palace
  • Ninghe Temple
  • Jingshan Temple
  • Temple of Fire
  • Guanghua Temple
  • Temple of Confucius
  • Yonghe / Lama Temple
  • Temple of Earth
Imperial Ancestral Temple / Working People's Cultural Palace

1) Imperial Ancestral Temple / Working People's Cultural Palace (must see)

Located to the east of Tiananmen Square, the Imperial Ancestral Temple is also known as the Working People’s Cultural Palace. It was here that the Ming and Qing dynasties offered sacrifices to Earth and Heaven. This temple was built in 1420 during the Ming dynasty ruler Yongle’s reign.

Covering an area of 197,000 square meters, this temple has three red walls surrounding it. As you enter through the Halberd Gate, you will be struck by the solemn and imposing central structures. The roofs of the three halls in this structure are covered with yellow glazed tiles.

The Sacrificial hall is where grand sacrificial ceremonies used to be held. The sumeru, three-tiered base of this hall is made of white marble. The hall’s interior looks grand with sixty-eight columns made of exquisite and expensive nanmu golden silkwood. The ceiling dazzles with its gilded colored paintings and is complemented by the golden brick paved floor.

On each side of the hall, you will find long, spacious corridors leading to a compound at the southern end. Here you can see exquisite stone bridges over the Golden River. In 1951, on International Labor Day, the Imperial Ancestral Temple was named the Beijing Working People’s Cultural Palace. On your trip to Beijing, visit this temple that takes you right back to those ancient times.

Why You Should Visit:
Way cheaper than the Forbidden City – like a smaller version that's quieter and also easier on the legs, but with similar architecture and still significant.
A great place to get uncrowded photos, to walk around with only a handful of others and to enjoy a pleasant park, right in the heart of Beijing.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 6:30am-7:30pm
Ninghe Temple

2) Ninghe Temple

The Ninghe Temple, also known as the Cloud Temple, is situated in the western side of Forbidden City. It was built in 1730, during the Qing Dynasty, and was used to offer sacrifices to the God of Clouds. Visitors have the opportunity to see the beautiful original building of Qing Dinasty due to its exquisite preservation.
Jingshan Temple

3) Jingshan Temple

Jingshan, an artificial hill, is situated to the north of Forbidden City. This public park was originally an imperial garden created to protect the imperial palace from bad spirits and cold winds. It was during the Ming Dynasty’s Yongle era that the artificial hill with a height of 45.5 meter was constructed using the soil excavated during the construction of the moats around the Imperial Palace. You will find the beautiful Jingshan Temple atop the Jingshan Hill from where you will enjoy a mesmerizing view of Beijing.

Soil was painstakingly moved from the palace to the park by manual laborers and animals. There are five individual peaks each of them featuring a pavilion. Officials used to gather at these pavilions for leisure breaks.

Elderly people find it relaxing to meet their friends and socialize here. If you are lucky, you will find groups of elderly people dancing, singing and merry making. A visit to this park will show you many exquisitely constructed buildings that are architecturally significant.

At the Southern entrance, you will find the Qiwant Pavilion. This pavilion features roof with golden glazing and is a popular exhibition venue today. Take a stroll through the charming walkways and enjoy the open public places in this park that attracts a huge number of tourists from across the world.
Temple of Fire

4) Temple of Fire

The Temple of fire is 1800 years old. Constructed during the Tang Dynasty, this temple is also called the Fire Spirit Temple. Initially located near Dianmen, Beijing at Shishahai, it was rebuilt in the sixth Zhizhen year during Yuan Emperor Shun’s reign. It was further expanded during emperor Wanli’s rule who added the glazed tiles in an effort to keep away repeated fires at the Imperial court.

Further renovations took place during the reign of Qing Emperor Qianlong when the roofs of the pavilions and gates were beautified with yellow tiles. The Temple of Fire as we see today retains all its original features.

This temple has its own culture the most prominent among them being the Fire Patriarch’s birthday celebrations. This celebration is held on the twenty second day of the sixth lunar month. Back then, officials were sent on this day to the temple by the emperor to pray on his behalf to the Fire God.

This Imperial temple was at one time under the control of The Orthodox Oneness Sect’s Daoists. When the Celestial Master’s came to visit the emperor, Temple of Fire was their residence. Today the temple stands in ruins after thousand years of being at the receiving end of winds and rains. Government designated this temple as a historic site in 1981.
Guanghua Temple

5) Guanghua Temple

Located in Shjichahai Scenic Area in Beijing, the Guanghua Temple was originally constructed during the Yuan dynasty. This grand Buddha temple was reconstructed in 1463 during the Ming dynasty. Today this temple acts as Beijing city’s protection unit. Guanghua temple is spread over 13,838 square meters and is located close to the Silver Bridge and Soong Ching Ling’s former residence. It was open to public in 1921.

In 1949, Guanghua Temple was home to sixty monks. It was closed down in 1965 forcibly as a result of the Cultural Revolution. During the revolution, the monks had to leave the temple premises and most of the statues and deities were broken down.

The temple was reconstructed in December 1980. Yiran, a 36 year old monk became the head monk of this temple in 1983. He was replaced in 1990 by 24 year old master Xuecheng. Today, the first and fifteenth of every lunar month, the temple is open for public visit.

At the temple, you will find a stone staircase with 199 steps apart from maon structures including Jialan Palace, Tianwang Palace, Gaoshan Gate, Dizang Palace and Sanzang Palace.

Tourists from around the world come to this temple to enjoy the unique ambience. Located close to the Joy City Hotel Beijing, the temple is the perfect place to spend some enjoyable hours on your trip to Beijing.
Temple of Confucius

6) Temple of Confucius (must see)

The Temple of Confucius was constructed in 1302 and later expanded to occupy 20,000 square meters. Today holds the distinction of being the second largest in China. It is located close to the Imperial Academy on Guozijian Street. Between 1981 and 2005, this temple housed part of the Capital Museum’s art collection.

As you enter the temple’s complex, you will find four courtyards that are aligned along the central axis. Some of the prominent structures that extend from south to north of the temple include the Dacheng Gate, Xianshi Gate, Chongshengci and the Dacheng Hall.

On each side of the front courtyard, you will find positioned 198 stone tablets with an inscription of names of Jinshi or advanced scholars from the Qing, Ming and Yuan dynasties. Ancient Chinese historical documents can be found at the Qing and Ming dynasty’s 14 stele pavilions made of stone.

Don't miss out on the drums made of carved stone. These drums were made during the Qianlong period between 1736 and 1795. In the Hall of Great Perfection, you will find an ancient Chinese musical instruments collection. Confucius’ shrine is also in this hall.

The temple ground features a variety of attractive carvings. Pay a visit to this beautiful and interesting temple on your trip to Beijing.

Why You Should Visit:
Great place to relax and enjoy the tranquility of the temple & complex. Plenty of places to sit out of the heat or to explore the intricacies of the temple decorations within.

The temple's gift shop has gorgeous paper cuttings and prints that you're less likely to find elsewhere.
You can combine this visit with the Yonghe Temple, as they are less than 100m from each other. Also in front, you have the beautiful Dadu Museum of Art.

Opening Hours:
Temple & Mansion of Confucius: 8am-5:30pm; Cemetery of Confucius: 8am-6pm
Yonghe / Lama Temple

7) Yonghe / Lama Temple (must see)

Located in the north east part of Beijing city, Yonghe Temple is popularly known as the Lama Temple. This monastery and temple attached to Tibetan Buddhism’s Geluk School is one of the most important and largest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and is constructed in Tibetan and Han Chinese style.

Construction of this temple started during the Qing Dynasty in 1694 and originally the building was used as the residence of court eunuchs. Later on, it was converted to Prince Yong’s court. He was the son of Kangxi Emperor and the future Yongzheng Emperor. When he ascended the throne in 1722, Yongzheng converted half of the building into a monastery for Tibetan Buddhism monks retaining the other half as the imperial palace. This temple houses his coffin since 1735 when he died.

Qianlong Emperor, his successor, elevated the temple to the imperial status by symbolically changing the turquoise tiles to yellow tiles, usually reserved for emperors. Monks from Tibet and Mongolia started using this monastery as their residence and ever since this Lamasery has grown to be the national center of Lama Administration.

Yonghe Temple has successfully survived the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s-70s, largely due to the protection of Zhou Enlai, then Prime Minister of China. In 1981, the temple was reopened to the public. Today it attracts a lot of tourists from all parts of the world.

Why You Should Visit:
While the temple is quite beautiful in itself, the ability to see the largest Buddha carved from a single piece of wood is a big highlight here.
As a plus, there's none of the shouting and camera shoving activities you tend to see elsewhere, as tourists tend to be more respectful.

Upon entering, you can receive free incense to burn on site (don't use it all at once) or take home as a nice memento.
Across the street from the subway exit, there's a tea shop that also sells ice cream, very popular with locals!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-4:30pm
Temple of Earth

8) Temple of Earth

Just outside the second ring road in Beijing, around the Andingmen area, you can find the Temple of Earth. This temple is spread over 42.7 acres and is close to the famous Yonghe Temple.

Temple of Earth was built by Emperor Jia Jing of the Ming Dynasty in 1530. Here, annual ritual of offering to the heaven was held during summer solstice and was attended by Qing and Ming dynasty emperors.

As you enter the temple premises, you will find charming tree lined paths and lush gardens. It was restored and renovated over a period of time after being damaged during the Cultural Revolution. The temple is square in shape because it symbolizes the Earth. It is located to the north of Beijing because north is the direction of Earth.

Circular shaped Temple of Heaven is located to the South of Beijing. This temple symbolizes sky and heaven. To the East and West lie the temples of Sun and Moon respectively. These four temples are believed to interact in a spiritual manner. Temple of Earth has been listed by the Chinese government among the most important monuments to be preserved. Do not miss a visit to this wonderful temple on your trip to Beijing.

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