15km west of Kunming, Western Hills is a range
of four mountains stretching over 40 kilometers
along the western shore of Dianchi Lake, looking
like a Sleeping Beauty with long tresses trailing
away to the south.
With an elevation of 1900-2350
meters, Western Hills contains the
best scenery and some of the finest
temples in the entire region.
Huating Temple (Huating
Built in the 11th century,
it used to be a county temple of the
Nanzhao Kingdom. Rebuilt in 14th century,
it continued to grow and later became
the largest Buddhist complex in Kunming.
The main temple contains
a trinity of gilded lacquer Buddhas
seated on lotus thrones. It is characterized
by blue hair, august gesture and sumptuous
setting. Comparing with the serious
Buddha, the 500 luohan on the sidewalls,
similar to those in the Bamboo Temple,
then appear frivolous and easygoing.
Taihua Temple (Taihua
With an elevation of 2350m,
Taihua Temple is located in a deep
forest 2 kilometers away from Huating
Temple. First built in the Yuan dynasty,
it is the oldest temple in Western
Hills. The temple was destroyed and
rebuilt for several times, and the
present one dates back to 1687.
The temple is famous for
its rare flowers and trees. Many camellia,
magnolia, sweet-scented osmanthus
and others trees were planted in and
outside the temple, made the temple
the best place to enjoy the flowers.
main hall in this temple is Hall of the Precious
Hero (Daxiong Baodian), where Buddhas of the Three
Ages: Sakyamuni, Maitreys and Kasyapa-matanga
are enshrined. Behind the main hall stands an
altar to Guanyin. Reputed as Deliverer of Sons,
Guanyin is widely enshrined by newlyweds and barren
couples who hope to get a male baby.
Sanqing Pavilion (Three
To the south of Huating
Temple is Three Purity Pavilion. Different
from the former temples, this temple
follows Taoist architectural style.
Originally built in the early 14th
century as a summer resort for a Mongol
prince of the Yuan dynasty, the pavilion
later was renovated as a Daoist shrine.
The two-storey pavilion
now serves as a teahouse. Statues
of Zhen Wu and Taishang Laojun were
enshrined there. A stone carving,
depicting a green snake winding around
a tortoise stands by the road. Snake
and tortoise are symbols of longevity
and it is said that one who touches
the carving would live longer.
Dragon Gate (Longmen)
cut on a natural precipice, Dragon Gate is the
highlight of Western Hills. With an elevation
of 2,500 meters, it is the highest temple on the
In 1781, a necessitous
Daoist monk named Wu Laiqing, motivated
by devotion, began chipping his way
up the cliff with hammer and chisel.
After his death, two devoted gentlemen,
aided by villagers from the foot of
the mountain, continued his project.
After years' hard work, they finally
inched the route precariously upward
to a natural cliff-top platform, completing
Wu Laiqing's visionary plan in 1853.
Many inscriptions and
steles are found here and there in
Dragon Gate. Near Air Corridor stands
an arch on which the characters "Longmen"
(Dragon Gate) were inscribed. Looking
down from here, one may have a bird's
view of Kunming city and Dianchi Lake.