Yuantong Temple is the biggest Buddhist
shrine in Kunming. It was originally
built over 1000 years ago during the Tang Dynasty. After two
restorations and expansions in the Ming and Qing Dynasties,
the temple took on its present appearance, with covered corridors,
bridges and grand halls.
This old Temple is famous for
its unusual structure, which is high at the front
and low at the back. From the front archway named
"Yuantong Shengjing" (Wonderland), one
has a view of the entire garden. Behind a haze
of smoke created by all the incense that worshippers
leave burning, a majestic octagonal temple pavilion,
elegantly furnished and infused with a tone of
antiquity, sits in the middle of a big pond with
stone bridges in front and behind. Inside the
pavilion there is a golden statue of Buddha, and
to the north is the splendid main hall in the
style of the Yuan Dynasty. Entwining the two central
pillars inside the hall are two giant flying dragons
carved in the Ming Dynasty. The blue and yellow
dragons face each other as if they were ready
to fight. On both sides of the hall are covered
corridors running alongside the clear water pool.
The stone staircases on both sides of the main
hall are carved out of the cliff and are known
as the "Caizhilu." From here one can
climb to the top of the mountain. Beside the path
are the most ancient inscriptions in Kunming.
The characters are still clear today in spite
of suffering from centuries of wind and rain.
They are one of the most important historical
relics of Kunming.
Behind the main hall are two
caves, the "Yougu" and "Chaoying".
The caves wind far into the mysterious depths
of the mountain, and, according to local legend,
were once the home of dragons. In the Yuan Dynasty,
a monk named Juezhao built a temple beside the
cliff to placate the troublesome dragons. When
the temple was destroyed, he built a terrace on
which he could perform his magic arts to subdue
the dragons and conjure them away.