The White Cloud Temple is in
southwestern Beijing, directly behind the Broadcasting
Building. It was called the Temple of Heavenly
Eternity during the Tang Dynasty and the Temple
of the Great Ultimate during the Jin Dynasty.
It is the largest Daoist architectural complex
in Beijing and was the headquarters for the Dragon
Gate sect. Although historical records indicate
that there were Daoist temples in Beijing during
the Tang Dynasty, it was not until the early Yuan
Dynasty that they came to be built on a large
scale. The Yuan Emperor Shizu (Kublai Khan), whose
reign lasted from 1260 to 1293, appointed a Daoist
priest from Shandong province to the position
of"National Teacher,"which nominally
put him in charge of all Chinese Doaist affairs.
This priest's name was Qiu Chuji, but he was commonly
known as the Sage of Eternal Spring (Changchun
Zhenren). While Qiu Chuji was in Beijing, he resided
in the Temple of the Great Ultimate, which he
expanded and renamed the Temple of Eternal Spring
(Changchungong). From then on, it became the center
of Daoism in northern China. It was not until
the Zhengtong era (1436-1449) of the Ming Dynasty
that its current name was adopted.
The extant temple was rebuilt
in the Qing Dynasty and exemplifies the Daoist
architecture of the period. The complex is composed
of multiple courtyards set out on a central axis.
From front to back the structures are as follows:
a memorial archway, the main gate, a pool, a bridge,
the Hall of Officials of the Heavenly Censor ate
(corresponding to the Buddhist Hall of Heavenly
Kings), the Hall of the Jade Emperor and the Hall
of Religious Law (corresponding to the rear hall
of a Buddhist temple).
In the center of the rear courtyard
is the Hall of the Patriarch Qiu, devoted to the
worship of Qiu Chuji, and behind this, the Hall
of the Four Heavenly Emperors, the second story
of which is the Hall of Three Purities (corresponding
to the Sutra Repository of Buddhist temples and
housing the Daoist Tripitaka). Here one can see
the similarity between Daoist and Buddhist temple
architectures, though the decorative details and
paintings make use of specifically Daoist motifs
such as lingzhi fungus, specifically Daoist immortals
and cranes, and the Eight Diagrams.
The temple contains a stela with
calligraphy by Emperor Qianlong recording in detail
the history the history of the temple and the
life of Qiu Chuji.
Beijing Travel Attractions