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Qiongzhu Temple

Written by Sunny XieUpdated Dec. 26, 2020


Qiongzhu Temple is a Buddhist temple in Kunming and it is most famous for those art treasures: 500 colored clay sculptures of Arhats.


Qiongzhu Temple is located in the northwest suburbs of Kunming City, on the towering and continuous Yu'an Peaks where verdant old trees can be found every where and the peaks are always curled up by cloud and mist. The unique landscapes make the ancient temple become more attractive. It is said that Qiongzhu Temple was first built in the Tang Dynasty (618–907). In the Ming Dynasty(1368–1644), the temple was damaged by a fire, and was rebuilt with a larger scale than before at that time. During the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), the temple was repaired for several times. Hence, most of the architectural complex is kept with Ming and Qing styles.

Bamboo temple

There is an anecdote about the temple. In the Tang Dynasty, Yunnan Province (along with parts of Guizhou, Sichuan, Tibet, Vietnam and Burma) was under the control of Nanzhao (738–937), a local regime in ancient China. One day, two brothers of royal lineage were hunting in Xi Hill in Kunming. They ran after a rhinoceros with a hop to capture it and got on Yu'an Mountains, and then the rhinoceros suddenly disappeared. However, a group of monks who were unlike to any monks they had seen before, came into their sight. After they got closer, these monks vanished in clouds and mist. The brothers only found several canes made by bamboo inserting in the earth. They tried their best to move the canes, but it was in vain. The next day, they were so surprised to find that the canes grew up with verdant branches and leaves. After that, they built a temple on the site where the canes planted and named the temple with Qiongzhu Temple (Qiongzhu, in Chinese is 筇竹, a kind of bamboo). There is a couplet summarizing the anecdote on the gate of the temple.

The highlight of the temple should be those five hundred of colored clay sculptures of Arhats which was made by a master of clay sculpture from Sichuan along with his 4 apprentices. They spent seven years from 1833 to1890 on making these five hundred of colored clay sculptures of Arhats. These life-size sculptures are vivid with different expressions including happy, anger, sorrow and laughing, and are honored as 'the bright pearl of sculptures in the Orient'. They are exhibited on three layers in the both sides of the Great Buddha's Hall of Qiongzhu Temple (with 68 sculptures), Tiantan Lai Pavilion (with 216 sculptures) and Fanyin Pavilion (with 216 sculptures). It is said that the sculptures on the middle layer were made by the great master of clay sculpture; hence there are the most essences on the middle layer. These splendid sculptures in different poses and in different expressions, together with those numerous couplets and inscriptions on tables and columns, give us a glance at the history and culture in ancient times.

There is an interesting custom when visiting the temple, that visitor can count the Arhats as he/she stepping into the temple (gentlemen start from the left, and ladies start from the right) and not stop until the number of his/her age, then the very sculpture is the description of his/her life.

Travel Essentials

Location: In Yu'an Mountains which are about 7 kilometers (about 4 miles) from Kunming urban area.

How to Get There: There are shuttle buses departing to Qiongzhu Temple from Kunming Art Theater, and the art theater is located can reach by taking city buses 5, C8, 10, 14, 26, 52, 66, 82, 98 and 124.

Ticket Price: 6 yuan per person.

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