Temple of Azure Clouds
Just outside the north gate of the Fragrant Hills Park which is 20 kilometer from Beijing City, is the Temple of Azure Clouds (Biyun Si). This temple was initially built during the Yuan dynasty and was reconstructed during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The interior buildings almost retain the style of the Ming dynasty completely.
The gate of Azure Clouds which is faced by the stone lions is called the Mountain Gate. Close to it is a very deep pool where visitors can view a river that never dries up. On both sides of this temple are 2 Buddhist guardians which were carved during the Ming Dynasty and each being 5 m in height.
Upon entering this temple, tourists first visit the Front Palace where the stout Maitreya is displayed and then they encounter the Sakyamuni's Palace where there are statues of Sakyamuni and his disciples as well as the Arhats.
The most famous buildings inside the temple, however, are the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, which is in the center of the temple, the Five Hundred Arhats Hall and the Vajra Throne Tower.
There is a red wooden plaque hanging above the front gate of the Sun Yatsen Memorial Hall, the words on the plaque which is engraved in gold was written by his wife, Song Qingling. Inside this hall lies an empty crystal coffin presented by the USSR government in 1925 in memory of Sun Yatsen, because his body had already been buried elsewhere, the coffin was left here till now. Photos of Sun Yatsen, his handwriting, his books and his statue are also on display inside this hall.
The Five Hundred Arhats Hall located on the west side of the Temple of Azure Clouds , includes 9 rooms, 4 small wells and a pavilion. The inner side of the front gate has figures of 4 heavenly kings, and 3 powerful Buddhas, Burning Lamp Buddha, Sakyamuni and Maitreya, are placed in the middle of this hall. Another Buddha called Ji Gong, squats on the beam of the house.
Altogether there are 512 statues, of which include 500 wooden Arhats, 11 Bodhisattvas and one statue of Ji Gong. All the Arhats are vivid, life-size statues with different poses and expressions. It has been said that 2 of these Arhats were the statues of Emperor Kangxi and Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty.
The magnificent Vajra Throne Tower is the highest building in the Temple of Azure Clouds. This 35 meter high tower with elegant decorations is well-known within the area of Beijing City for its high elevation. The tower is located on Xishan (West Hill) and when you climb to the top, it is a perfect observational position to view all the scenery in the suburbs of Beijing City.
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