EXTRA: Yuanzhao Temple, Wutai Shan, Shanxi

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on March 30, 2015.)

Summer flowers in front of the first hall, Yuanzhao Temple (圆照寺), Wutai Shan, Shanxi (山西, 五台山)

August 27, 2012 - After toiling up numerous stairs from Luohou Temple, I reached the grounds of Yuanzhao (perhaps something like "Full Illumination") Temple. Though it was not on my list, it was between two temples that were, and it was charming in its own right.

Built during the Yuan Dynasty and rebuilt in the Ming, the temple is home to one of the most beautiful stupas I've never seen.

A monk from India, variously named Shilisha or (less-commonly) Baolisha, came to Wutai Mountain during the reign of the Yongle Emperor (1402-1424), after which visit the temple was rebuilt. When he died, during the reign of a subsequent emperor (Xuande, 1425-1435), a beautiful pagoda was built at the temple in his memory.

In pictures, I've seen that a tall white milk-bottle-style stupa or pagoda stands on a square pedestal, rising over nine meters in addition to the 2.3 meter base. On each corner of the pedestal stands a smaller stupa in the same style, only 2.4 meters tall.

The whole thing stands in a very small compound (reflecting the style of the earliest Chinese temples). And--alas!--that compound was closed on the day of my visit. I was able to see only the top of the central stupa from Guangzong, the temple above.

Still, Yuanzhao was not without its charms, chief among them the blooming flowerbeds, the gorgeous painted arhats in the main hall, and the friendly monks who played with a dog and a rescued turtle, and who gave me a pen to replace the one that had just run out of ink! This saved my neck, as I had several more temples to write about that day.

GPS Info:
  • 39.01115, 113.59653


(Regarding problems with this map, please see the CHINA section on this page.)


More pictures can be found here.

A riot of flowers bloomed in front of Yuanzhao's halls.

Some of the fine painted arhats in the main hall

A monk at Yuanzhao plays with a dog as a visitor watches.

The top of the Shilisha stupa as seen from Guangzong Temple above it

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