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Dongyue Miao meaning 'East Hill Temple' is somewhat of an unheard of tourist attraction situated in the heart of Beijing’s Chaoyang District. It represents the ideas of Taoism; an ancient Chinese philosophy dating back to the late 4th century BCE, and is a must see for anyone wishing to gain further insight into ancient Chinese culture.
The temple is rarely too crowded unless visiting on a national holiday such as the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) when there is a temple fair.
It has been described as a "fascinating place that provides an interesting contrast with other temples found in Beijing, such as the Temple of Heaven or the Lama Temple".
Dongyue Temple was first founded in 1319 when a Chinese official and descendant of the Daoist founder, Zhang Liusan, acquired the land for the temple. Construction continued until 1322 when the main hall and gates were built.
Over time, the temple has been altered, most notably throughout the Qing Dynasty when it was drastically expanded under the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1735–1799).
During Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the temple became damaged and no longer used for religious purposes. It became used as government offices, a school and even provided housing!
In 1996 it was decided that it should be restored to its former glory, and has now been recognized as a national treasure.
The temple covers around 4.7 hectares (12 acres) of land and contains over 350 different rooms. There are 3 main halls containing many ancient carved statues of gods and other Taoist figures.
There are several different courtyards, however the main courtyard situated in the center of the site contains almost 100 stone tablets inscribed with ancient Chinese characters. However, for English speaking tourists, there are translations provided among the most famous of these, although the grammar may not be the best!
With 76 different ‘departments’ inside the temple, visitors are given something to look at with information provided in English about each one as well as colourful statues and figures to engage tourists. Many popular departments include the department of sympathy, and pity as well as the department of accumulating wealth.
Many Chinese visitors also donate to these in the form of red envelopes containing money, through incense or even with fupai (a traditional Chinese red token with the person’s name written upon it). This is said to bring them good luck and prosperity and many believe that these donations will help in the specific aspect in their lives dependent on which department they donate to.
Also connected to Dongyue Temple is the Folk Museum (民族博物馆 Minzu Bowuguan). This contains lots of history about China and hosts many exhibits referencing ancient traditions. It showcases more than 1,600 artefacts coming from all over China dating back from the Qing and Ming dynasties. As well as this the museum displays a great deal of information about the history of the temple and also displays a range of photographs taken before and during the recent refurbishment project in 1996.
Overall, we believe that Dongyue Temple is something well worth visiting for an interesting look into Chinese history and culture. It’s something not to be missed at an amazingly cheap price, and something for which we believe should be included in many more top lists for attractions!
China Highlights' bespoke tours give you the freedom to visit less-visited places. Contact us for a Beijing/China tour designed to your requirements.