Yuantong Temple and Golden Temple, Kunming, China

Yuantong Temple

Yuantong temple (圆通寺yuán tōng sì), admission 6 yuan,  is conveniently located just north of the main downtown area and a short walk from Green Lake Park. It’s Kunming’s largest Buddhist temple and a pleasant place to escape the noisy streets and snap a few photos.

While the first pavilion as you enter looks more like a construction site than a temple, around back is a small picturesque lake with a pavilion in the middle. On both sides and back behind the lake are more pavilions and garden spaces. A tranquil setting in the late afternoon sun.

Golden Temple

Golden Temple (jīn diàn sì, 金殿寺), admission 30 yuan. It’s about a 20 minute climb up stairs before you reach the first courtyard and pavilions. One of these first halls on the right has a 3D map of the complex, handy for getting an idea of where you want to visit. The temple with the golden Buddha (actually bronze), supposedly the largest in China, is in a small pavilion straight ahead. First built in 1602 it’s the most remarkable of the complex.

Past this temple is a wide walkway through a treed open area with attention-grabbing bronze sculptures from the Western Han Dynasty. Classic Chinese meets modern art. On ahead is the bell tower, a rather sad looking building currently used as a gift shop, but from the top on a clear day you can see back over the city. Past the bell tower the grounds become less manicured. On a Thursday afternoon groups of locals played cards or mahjong in the shade of the trees. In another open square a group of older women were dancing to Chinese music.

To the left of the bell tower is a garden area where paths wind through lush green spaces which in the right season would be ablaze with camellias and azaleas. There are also a couple of greenhouses. Not one orchid blooming in the orchid house, but the cactus house had a striking collection.

Is it worth the 30 yuan? I’ve seen more appealing temples for less and I don’t know that I would make a trip out here if you are short on time, but if you are looking for something to do, it’s an interesting afternoon.

Getting to Golden Temple

Bus 10, 71 or 68 will take you out there. The temple is the last stop, just before the bus station which is to your right as you’re exiting the temple grounds.

September 3, 2011

For links to all the posts in this series see the Kunming page.