Hangzhou’s history is rooted in the development of Imperial China, so it is perhaps unsurprising to learn that there are a great number of culturally significant sites located across the city. One of particular note is the Lingyin Temple, one of the more significant and developed Buddhist sites in this region of China.
Located in an underdeveloped pocket South-West of West Lake, Lingyin Temple is a large Buddhist temple complex that is easily accessible by either bus K7 or tourist bus Y2 from the main Train Station. At 65 RMB, this isn’t the cheapest of attractions but we spent several hours there exploring the temple and its beautiful surroundings and feel it is a worthwhile expenditure. To get to the scenic area ticket office, you will have to wander past a number of shops and restaurants. Starbucks, McDonalds, KFC & Pizza Hut sit seemingly out of place amongst the surrounding forest but are popular as ever with tourists from near and afar.
Top Tip: you actually have to pay twice here – once for the scenic area (35 RMB) and later on for the temple itself (25 RMB). If you like wandering, the grounds themselves are extensive so you could easily while away a few hours there without even going into the temple itself.
Once inside the scenic area, you can follow the main path up towards the temple or wander left towards the cave area and several pagodas dotted amongst the trees. The caves sit upon the towering Peak Flying from Afar which is said to have been magically transported from India. Inside the caves are 470 exquisite carvings showing various Buddhist scenes. The most famous – the ‘laughing’ Maitreya Buddha – sits on the main path that runs alongside the side of the stream toward the temple. These are definitely worth the time to discover although all but the smallest people will need to duck at times to avoid banging their heads on the low cave roofs.
Having purchased your second ticket to gain entry to the temple, you’re now ready to explore this famous Buddhist site set on the side of a hill. To this day, monks still occupy the temple grounds and can be seen going about their duties as you explore. And there is so much to explore! From The Hall of the Four Heavenly Kings to the Great Hall, each is uniquely different and worth the effort and exertion to explore.
One of the most unusual features is the gallery that contain hundreds of unique Buddha statues. What you may not realise – unless you look at a map of the complex – is that the building is arranged in the shape of a crooked cross (the symbol of the Nazi party during the early 20th Century). This may seem very out of place to Western visitors but this cross was used in Buddhism long before it was adopted as a symbol of terror in Western Europe.
Top Tip: There are a number of vegetarian restaurants serving a selection of food and drink within the temple walls. If these don’t take your fancy, you’ll have to wait for the wider selection of restaurants outside the scenic area.