With over 1300 years of history, Fayuan Temple is one of Beijing’s oldest and most respected Buddhist temples.
If you are a follower of Buddhism, the temple is one of Beijing’s must see attractions. If you are a tourist in Beijing exploring the cities incredible sites, the Fayuan Temple is one of the sites you could visit if you were stuck in Beijing with a few days spare while waiting for your train or plane.
The temple had an active population of monks and worshippers when I visited but I was the only camera toting passport holding tourist. There is a strong impression that the temple is not really a tourist site and this impression is heightened by the complete lack of signs or notice boards in English. The only English in the entire temple was the plaque on the front gate.
The Fayuan Temple was first constructed in 645 by Emperor LiShimin of the Tang Dynasty. The temple is said to have been built in memory of Li Shimin’s soldiers who had lost their lives in battle and the temple was initially named Mingzhongsi which means the temple in memory of the loyal.
The temple has a colourful history and was the prison of Emperor Qinzong of the Northern Song Dynasty who reigned from 1125 to 1127 when he was captured by troops of the Jin Dynasty. Xie Fangde was an Southern Song Dynasty official and resistance leader fighting Kublai Khan’s Yuan Dynasty. He was captured and taken to the Fayuan temple where he refused to surrender and starved himself to death.
The temple was rebuilt during the Zhengtong period from 1436 to 1449 and renovated in 1955.
The temple covers an area of 6,700 square meters and has the layout of a typical Buddhist temple with a line of gates and halls leading to the back of the temple grounds and minor buildings on the side. The main buildings in the temple include the Gate of Temple, Heavenly King Hall, Main Hall, Hall of Great Compassion, Sutra Hall, and Bell and Drum Towers.
Walking around the temple I noticed that many of the minor and some of the major buildings are used for storage.
The two buildings on the side of the first courtyard at the temple entrance are shops and the courtyard itself was undergoing major renovations.
One advantage of the temple not being a major tourist destination is that it has no crowds and a relaxing and serene atmosphere so slowly walking the grounds is very peaceful and enjoyable.
Getting to Fayuan Temple is a little tricky so you need to be careful not to get lost. First catch the subway to Caishikou subway station on line 4. At the subway station, leave through the D exit that is on Caishikou St. Walk south down Caishikou street until you reach Nanheng West street which will be to your right. Around 100 meters into Nanheng West street will be a park to your right and the Fayuan Temple will be across the other side of the park.
If you get lost, ask one of the locals where the “Fayuan Si” is. They will point you in the right direction.
Times and Tickets
Ticket prices are 5rmb and the temple is open from 8:30 to 3:30. They will still sell tickets after 3:30 but the doors to all the major buildings in the temple will be closed so make sure you visit the temple by 2:30 at the latest.