April is here and the weather is getting warmer and warmer. Beijing will become one of the most beautiful cities in China this month with various flowers in competitive bloom.
Rather than jostle with other tourists and amateur photographers in the city’s best-known parks, consider a trip to Beijing’s quiet temples where you can feel the spring air and enjoy the Buddhist atmosphere.
Dajue Temple: Magnolias
The Dajue Temple in Haidian District has a history spanning some 1,000 years. It was built in the Liao Dynasty and took its current name in the Ming Dynasty. Clear springs, ancient trees and white magnolias contribute to this temple’s elegance.
The magnolia is one of the first flowers to bloom in Beijing each spring. The beautiful flowers are found throughout the secluded Dajue Temple. It’s said that the 10-meter high white magnolia trees were planted by the Buddhist monk Jialing about 300 years ago during the Qing Dynasty.
There’s a special spot inside the temple where Buddhist pilgrims can pray to the “three holy ones”: one Buddha and two Bodhisattvas.
You can have a taste of Chinese tea at the Minghui Tea House, which is located next to the temple. Monks serve the tea and offer lessons in Zen and the art of tea preparation.
8 am – 5 pm
9 Xishan Dajue Si Lu, Anhe Village, Haidian
Take subway Line 4 to Beigongmen Station. Follow Exit A1 and board Bus 346 to Wenquancun. Transfer to Bus 633 and get off at Dajue Temple.
Fayuan Temple: Lilacs
The Fayuan Temple was built 1,300 years ago in the Tang Dynasty. It’s not only the oldest temple in Beijing but also the site of the Buddhist Academy of China. The temple boasts some of the most valuable scriptures and Buddhist art in its museum collection.
The temple yard has various types of lilac trees, which have a similar significance in Buddhism to the banyan tree. The white and purple flowers with heart-shaped leaves symbolize pious contact with the Buddha.
Fayuan Temple is known for its Lilac Poem Assembly, an annual event that takes place around April 10. The temples monks prepare Buddhist food and invite poets to view the lilacs and recite poems.
It’s said that the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore joined the assembly in 1924 in the company of Xu Zhimo.
8:30-11:30 am and 1-3:30 pm, Monday to Sunday (closed Wednesdays)
7 Fayuansi Qian Jie, Xicheng
Take subway Line 4 to Caishikou Station and follow Exit D. Walk 100 meters west. Fayuan Temple is located at the south end of the Jiaozi Hutong.
Wofo Temple: Wintersweet
Wofo Temple is located inside Beijing Botanical Garden. It was the royal temple of Mahayana Buddhism in the Tang Dynasty and takes its name from a reclining Buddha statue inside.
Pale yellow wintersweets bloom at the end of March. More than 60 wintersweet trees are scattered in every corner of the temple.
One ancient wintersweet tree can be found in front of the Tianwang Hall: it’s called “the crown of the capital’s wintersweets.” According to legend, the tree was planted during the reign of the Tang Dynasty Emperor Taizong. After years spent withered the tree amazingly returned to life.
The plain and fragrant wintersweets, along with the bells and drums, oil lamps and the ancient Buddha make for an other-worldly experience.
9 am – 5 pm
Beijing Botanical Garden, Wofosi Lu, Haidian
Take subway Line 4 to Beigongmen Station and follow Exit A2. Board Bus 696 or 563 to Wofo Temple.