Bamboo Temple: A Breathtaking Example of Chinese Architectural Finesse

Bamboo Temple, Chinese Heritage

Exterior of Bamboo Temple, by jnissa on Flickr

Today on the GoAbroad Blog, we feature a guest post from international education professional, Tom Hopkins, of Minds Abroad! Have you ever been interested in learning more about the history and heritage of China? The Bamboo Temple is one such architectural feat that has stood the test of time. Read on to learn more about this ancient marvel and explore for more study abroad opportunities available in China!

Bamboo Temple, a Symbol of China’s Rich Heritage

China has always been a land of mysticism. Bamboo Temple is a part of Chinese heritage that induces inspiration, awe and enigma. With a history of more than one thousand years, this temple has seen the rise and fall of dynasties in the country. The temple itself has been demolished and rebuilt under different regimes. Today, it stands as an architectural marvel that attracts tourists and sculptures alike. Its highlights are five hundred sculpted statues that were built over a period of seven years in the late 18th century.

Experience China’s Architectural Marvels

The Bamboo Temple is an architectural creation that has not only attracted tourists but also sculptors from across the globe. The real name of the temple is Qiongzhu Si and it lies on the Yu’an Mountain that stands northwest of Kunming. The location is ideal as it retains the mysticism of the temple surrounded by woods and waterfalls. There are times it is shrouded completely by clouds and mists. This is an ideal place to visit when you are on a China tour or learning Chinese in China.

The history of the temple is more than a thousand years old; however the temple itself is not. Since it was first built, Qionghzu Si or the Bamboo Temple (as it is popularly known today) has been razed to the ground a number of times. Originally built by the Yuan Dynasty, the last time it was burnt to the ground was in the 15th Century. The current temple is the one that was built by the Tang Dynasty. There is a legend behind the building of the temple that adds to its mystique.

According to the story, two brothers from the royal family were on a hunting spree in the area where Kunming is now situated.

Prayer Flags Inside Bamboo Temple

Inside Bamboo Temple by jnissa, on Flickr

They came across a rhinoceros which fled upon seeing them and the brothers chased it far into the jungle. As it reached the deeper section of the forest, the rhinoceros suddenly disappeared. Puzzled, the brothers continued looking for it and chanced into a bevy of monks. These monks even at a first glance seemed extraordinary and they disappeared right before their eyes. The brothers’ surprise saw no bounds when they discovered that the monks had left their walking trail behind them.

They perceived this as a meeting with superior beings who brought them close to enlightenment. They decided to mark the occasion and augment the spirituality that they had experienced by laying the foundation of the Qiongzhu temple. Though there is no shred of evidence to prove this story, it has been a part of the myth surrounding the temple for hundreds of years.

The most famous features of the temple are the 500 painted clay sculptures of Buddhist Arhats (noble beings) that were constructed between 1883 and 1890 by Li Guangxiu, a folk artist from Sichuan Province. This was between 1875 and 1909 when the Qing emperor decided to take charge of the restoration of the temple. Li took seven years to reconstruct the statues and he did it so beautifully that it paved the way for inspiration. Each of the “Arahat” is unique and exhibits different expressions and emotions. Some statues reach out to the moon and others are reprimanding their pet monsters. There are those which seem to be in anguish and others which look placid. The vivid depiction of human emotions has made this temple a national heritage. Any China travel itinerary must incorporate a visitation to this remarkable temple!

Tom Hopkins works for Minds Abroad and is an informed counselor on study abroad language programs and travel information in China. For more information on year round program, summer programs and excursions to places of cultural and historical interest to which we take our students, visit

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.