The Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou is one of the top ten most famous Buddhist temples in China, and it consistently ranks even higher when voted on by tourists who have been there. It was built in 326 AD, at the foot of Lingyin Mountain, and in its heyday housed around 3,000 monks. Today, it is still one of the largest and wealthiest temples in China and is situated in the breathtaking Lingyin-Felai Feng Scenic Area.
The walkway to the temple, which winds through a stunning forested area, is strewn with hidden grottos, alcoves and sculptures and this ancient art work is a highlight for visitors. The Laughing Buddha sculpture, jovial and beautifully carved, is particularly beloved. The temple's name can be translated as Temple of the Soul's Retreat, or Temple of Inspired Seclusion, both of which aptly illustrate the wondrous atmosphere of the place, and its situation in a beautiful wilderness area.
Although you can view the famous statues carved into the mountain by gaining admission to the scenic area, the Lingyin Temple complex is definitely worth exploring. One of the many treasures Lingyin displays is a Sakyamuni statue 82 feet (24.8m) tall, which is one of the largest wooden statues in China, and has been covered in gold leaf. The temple also stores an important collection of Buddhist literature that makes it popular with scholars.
Look out for the Lingyin Vegetarian Restaurant, which is renowned for its healthy and tasty meals and makes for the ideal break from sightseeing.
Address: 1 Fayun Alley, Lingyin Road, Xihu District
Opening times: Open daily 7am to 5.30pm.
Admission: RMB 30 for entrance to the Lingyin Temple; RMB 45 for entrance to the Scenic Area.