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Saturday, June 4, 2011

No. 45: Qiongzhu Temple, Kunming, Yunnan

Qiongzhu Temple (筇竹寺) in Kunming, Yunnan (云南, 昆明市), is famous for its
Qing Dynasty set of 500 Arhats (五百罗汉). These are just a few of them.
A few months after our visit to Guangzhou, my wife and I winged our way to Kunming in breathtaking Yunnan. Logistics caused us to arrive terribly late, so we slept in a bit and didn't reach our first destination, Qiongzhu Temple (named for a species of bamboo), until well after noon.

But that was OK because, for a mere 10 yuan, we had one of the best spicy noodle bowls ever. Charged up now, we went into the halls on either side of the main gate, and into the Main Hall as well, to see Qiongzhu's greatest treasure: a collection of clay statues of the 500 Arhats (enlightened students of the Buddha). They were created by Sichuan artist Li Guangxiu and his students between 1883 and 1890.

They are stunning. I was quite excited to see them, because a little over a year earlier, a friend had written to alert me to the fact that a fire was sweeping through the area, and the entire temple--along with these precious artworks--was in danger. Fortunately the fire was contained before it reached the temple, saving these relics for future generations. This is all the more marvelous because the temple has in fact been destroyed several times by fire in the past.

Besides the Arhats, there is also a collection of couplets written by famous visitors to the temple.

The location itself is also an attraction. Although only 12 kilometers from the city center, the temple lies in a beautiful forest (some of it bamboo) on a mountain that feels far from the city. This, and the famous Arhats, make it well worth the journey.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily January 21, 2013.)

GPS Info:
  • 25.06539, 102.62591



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GALLERY

These two arhat replicas stand outside the front gate of Qiongzhu Temple, Kunming
Ancient cedars indicate the age of the temple
Some of the stunning 500 Arhats for which Qiongzhu Temple is famous (postcard above)
The exquisite Main Hall also contains Qing-Dynasty clay statues
A small, ornate pavilion stands near the rear of the property
This pond is near the pagoda area in the temple's rear yard
Some of the ancient pagodas that stand at the very back of the property

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