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Guanlin Temple was built in 1596 in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). The place is very popular among the locals who worship a valorous general, Guan Yu, by burning sticks of incense. Visiting the temple is a good chance for you to learn about the culture behind Guan Yu.
Guanlin Temple is the only complex combining a forest with a temple in China. Read on to find out about things you can do in Guanlin Temple.
In Guanlin, “Guan” refers to Guan Yu, a general of the Shu Kingdom (221–263), and “lin” (which usually means ‘forest’) means ‘tomb’.
In ancient China, only the tomb of a saint could be called “lin”. There are only two tombs of Chinese saints called “lin” — one is Guan Yu’s, the other belongs to Confucius.
Guan Yu was the general of the Shu kingdom in the Three Kingdoms Period (220–280). He is famous for his loyalty and great fighting skills. He was loyal to his master and never betrayed his country.
Cao Cao, the ruler of the Wei kingdom (220–266), admired Guan Yu very much. He tried to persuade Guan Yu to serve him many times using money and beauty as bribes but Guan Yu stood his ground firmly.
After Guan Yu was captured by Sun Quan, the ruler of the Wu Kingdom (222–280), he stated he would rather die than surrender. Eventually, he was executed by Sun Quan. Fearing revenge from the Shu Kingdom, Sun Quan sent Guan Yu’s head to Cao Cao, the ruler of the Wei Kingdom, in an attempt to deflect responsibility for the death.
Cao Cao, however, was an admirer of Guan Yu's loyalty and bravery. He gave orders for Guan Yu’s head to be buried outside the South Gate of Luoyang. Guanlin Temple was built on the site.
Guan Yu still holds a high position in the hearts of Chinese people. His loyalty and bravery won people’s respect. Chinese people like to regard brave heroes as door gods. During every New Year celebration, people affix a picture of Guan Yu on their doors for good blessings.
He is also regarded as the god of wealth. Businessmen like to worship Guan Yu for three reasons:
The structure comprises halls, temples, pavilions, and Guan Yu's tomb. Valuable stone tablets with elegant calligraphies can also be found there.
Guanlin Temple is different from other temples. Buddhas are worshipped in other temples while the statue of Guan Yu is worshipped there. Guan Yu is the only figure worshipped in Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism for his loyalty and righteousness.
Guan Yu images features a long beard and a red face. You can see his images in the First Hall, the Second Hall, and Chunqiu Hall.
In the First Hall, there are statues of General Guan Yu standing in the middle of the hall with a serious look on his face. You can learn the stories about him in "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", a Chinese literature classic, depicted in 12 wooden carvings on the walls.
In the Second Hall, you can see statues of Guan Yu reading a book and sleeping. The different poses from the statues in the First Hall show that he was both a civilian and military general.
In Chunqiu Hall, a statue of Guan Yu on the left is reading the book “Chunqiu”. Because Guan Yu liked to read this book, that’s how this hall, to commemorate and praise him, got its name.
The tomb of General Guan Yu is at the back of the temple. The octagonal tomb is 17 meters (56 feet) high and covers an area of 2,600 square meters (28,000 square feet).
There are many stone figures in Guanlin Temple but the stone lions are the most impressive. More than 110 stone lions in different sizes and with various expressions can be found in the temple.
A stone-paved path leading to the First Hall has 104 stone lions on both sides. The biggest stone lion is in front of the Courtesy Gate, weighing 1.5 tonnes.
There are more than 1,000 table and epitaph inscriptions in the temple, detailing important historical events and heroes. Before the tomb of Guan Yu, there is a stone tablet, which was built in the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), carved with the highest of inscriptions of Guan Yu by many emperors.
As a spiritual and cultural symbol, Guan Yu represents the revered characteristics of the Chinese nation: loyalty, virtue, and morality. Guan Yu has become a god that the Chinese, both at home and overseas, respect and worship.
Guanlin International Pilgrimage Ceremony has been held from late September to early October every year since 1994. More than 500 people from America, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, and other countries gather there to worship Guan Yu.
The performers, dressed in ancient-style costumes, play music with classical musical instruments, such as guzheng (16–25-string zither), xiao (mouth organ with five or more pipes), and flutes.
You can also enjoy performances of beautiful Chinese dance and martial arts. After a series of performances, a solemn and magnificent pilgrimage ceremony will start. You can learn about traditional Chinese sacrificial rites during the ceremony.
If you want to have an authentic cultural experience in Guanlin Temple, late September is the best time for a tour. Visiting during the period of Guanlin International Pilgrimage Ceremony, you can have a different experience than at other times.
If you want to enjoy a quiet tour, you can go there in spring or autumn when it is not as crowded.
White Horse Temple: It is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in China and is renowned as the cradle of Chinese Buddhism. It is about 30 minutes’ drive from Guanlin Temple.
Guanlin Temple is a scenic spot full of stories and history. A tour with us will enable you to feel more of its charm than you would experience by yourself. Contact us and tell us your requirements — we will create a wonderful tour for you.