Surrounded by hills, the scenery here is quite beautiful. The temple was first built in the Qin Dynasty . Zhongyue Temple was called Taishi Temple in the past. Emperor Wudi of the Western Han Dynasty ordered that Zhongyue Temple be built up further, and emperors of other later dynasities did so as well. During the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty, the Zhongyue Temple was substantially reconstructed.
The area and structure of the Zhongyue Temple complex is similar to what it used to be after the reconstruction during the Qing Dynasty. It is 13 li long measured from the Zhonghua Gate and covers an area of over 100 thousand square meters. It is the largest and best-preserved existing ancient temple architectural complex on Songshan Mountain. Now, there are over 400 historic buildings in the complex, including Dian Gong ,towers, halls, pavilions, gates and so on. Most of them are in the imperial style of the Qing Dynasty. There are hundreds of ancient cypresses that were planted during the period from the Han Dynasty to the Song Dynasty. In addition, more are more than 100 tablets from the Northern Dynasties, tablets of the Tang Dynasty, Balingzhuang of the Song Dynasty, iron statues of the Song Dynasty, tablets of the Jin Dynasty, iron lions from the Jing and Ming Dynasties, and tablets with pictures of China's five sacred mountains from the Ming Dynasty. Besides these ancient buildings and the inscriptions on ancient bronze and stone tablets, there are also over 100 block on which classics of Taoism are carved.
Zhongyue Temple is the largest existing ancient architectural complex in China that is still well-preserved.
Zhongyue Temple is located at the foot of Taishi Mountain which is at the southern foot of Songshan Mountain. It is 4 kilometers east of the central city of Dengfeng.
Major Sites in the Zhongyue Temple Complex
About 300 meters in front of Zhongyue Temple are the Taishi Towers that are the symbolic gate of Zhongyue Temple. Built in the year 118, Taishi Towers are god towers. Taishi Towers, together with Shaoshi Towers and Qimu Towers, are called "the Three Towers of Yuehan."
The Taishi Towers measure 3.92 meters in height. The east and west towers are 6.75 meters away from each other. The towers were built with rectangular stone blocks. The upper part is carved into the shape of Sie Ding with huge rocks. 6 seal characters "Zhong Yue Tai Shi Yang Cheng" were carved on the south side of the tower. The characters look forceful and vigorous. There are also two inscriptions, one in the form of clerical script and the other that is half composed of seal characters and half composed of clerical script. The inscriptions tell the reasons why people built the Taishi Towers. They are important in the study of the evolution of Chinese calligraphy.
The carving of the four sides was made with the technique of Jiandi Ping Diao There are about 50 pictures of people, horses and carriages, sword dances, dragons, tigers, tortoises, elephants, goat heads, cocks fighting, dogs chasing rabbits, toads, owls, buildings, evergreen trees and other things. From these pictures, we can learn about life during the Han Dynasty.
Zhonghua Gate is the gate to Zhongyue Temple. Walking along the central axis of the temple, people can see Yaocan Pavilion, Tianzhong Tower, Peitian Zuozhen Arch, Chongsheng Gate, Huasan Gate, Chonggaojunji Arch, Junji Hall, Qin Hall, Yushu Building and other places. There are 11 courtyards altogether.
Among these buildings, Junji Hall, which is also known as Zhongyue Great Hall, is the most magnificent one. With vermilion walls and yellow tiles, Junji Hall is the main hall of Zhongyue Temple. Like the Taihe Hall in the Forbidden City, Junji Hall measures 20 meters in height and 920 square meters in area.
East of Chongsheng Gate stands Gushen Warehouse. The four iron men figures called the "Guards of the Warehouse" stand on the four sides of the warehouse. Casted in the first year of Yeping in the Song Dynasty, the iron men are 3 meters high. They all make fists, raise their arms, and square their shoulders with fierce eyes. They are the four biggest and best-preserved existing iron men in China. They are also called "Temple Guards." We cannot see iron statues like them in other temples. It is said that the iron men can cure diseases and stop disasters, so they have become kind of like local gods.
Zhongyue Great Hall
Built on a big platform measuring 3 meters in height, Zhongyue Great Hall is on the north side of the Sacrifice Table. The construction of the Zhongyue Great Hall is similar to that of the Taihe Hall in the Forbidden City in Beijing. The ratio of its length to width is 9 to 5. This hall covers an area of 920 square meters. With double eaves, Zhongyue Great Hall looks tall and magnificent. Decorated with colorful pictures and Dragon Zaojing this hall is equipped with ceiling slabs. The Dragon Zaojing is said to be carved from cypress tree roots. The Dragon Zaojing is delicately carved and is really a masterpiece. The seated statue in the middle of the shrine is the Zhongyue Emperor called Tianzhongwang. The statue is 5 meters high and seems majestic. His servant and another person are standing to the left and right side of him. Outside of the shrine, there stand 2 generals called Fang Bi and Fang Xiang. With armor and axes, they are about 6 meters tall and seem grand and solemn.
Ancient Cypress Trees
Songshan Mountain used to be covered by forests. Now, over 1000 ancient and famous trees still exist. Inside the Zhongyue Temple, there are more than 300 ancient cypress trees planted during the period from the West Han Dynasty to the Ming Dynasty. These trees are not only very old in age, but also are strange and rare in shape. Some look like monkeys, some like goats, some like deers, and some like phoenixes. In various curious shapes, they are vivid.
Zhongyue Temple Fair
Every tenth day of the third month of the lunar calendar in the spring and every tenth day of the tenth month of the lunar calendar in the autumn, the traditional temple fairs begin. The temple fairs usually last for 10 days. There are a large variety of activities during the temple fair such as "Tethering Children" for those women who who want to have a baby. This activity is usually held around Chongsheng Gate and in the Qin Hall in the back yard of the Zhongyue Temple.
Nearby Tourists Attractions
East of Zhongyue Temple are Luya Temple and Luya Falls. West of it are the Songyuesi Tower and the Songyang Academy which was one of the four great academies in ancient China. They are all worth visiting.
I updated this article on December 16, 2012
See all my travel articles