Qiongzhu Temple (Bamboo Temple)

Qiongzhu Temple
Qiongzhu Temple(the Bamboo Monastery) is situated on Yu'anshan Hill (the Jade Desk Hill) on the northwestern outskirts of Kunming, some 12 kilometers from the downtown area. The quiet and tastefully laid out temple is surrounded by verdant woods and green bamboos affording crisp and cool air. It is therefore called "the Jade Desk Hill in Fine Clouds and Mists".

The name "the Bamboo Monastery" indicates that it is closely related to bamboos. As the legend goes, in the period of Nazhao Kingdom under the reign of Tang Dynasty, the two sons Gao Guang and Gao Zhi of the Marquis of Shanchan (today's Kunming) once went hunting on the Western Hills and suddenly came rushing into their view a rhinoceros. They chased the beast to the northern slope of Yu'anshan Hill, but lost sight of the animal then and there. Standing instead in front of them was a silver-haired and ruddy-complexioned monk leaning on a bamboo stick in the midst of clouds hovering around the hills. The two brothers hurried forward to greet the monk, only to find him vanishing in a flash. His stick was found firmly stuck in the ground. The bamboo stick was seen sprouting and soon growing into a dense bamboo grove. Right on the very spot the two brothers then built a temple named Qiongzhusi to express their gratitude to the mysterious monk for making his appearance before them.

Burned down and rebuilt in the 15th century, it was restored from 1883 to 1890 when the abbot employed master Sichuanese sculptor Li Guangxiu and his apprentices to fashion 500 luohan (aghast or noble ones). These life-size clay figures are stunning, either very realistic or very surrealistic, a sculptural tour de force. Down one huge wall come the incredible surfing Buddha?, some 70-odd, riding the waves on a variety of mounts, blue dogs, giant crabs, shrimp, turtles and unicorns.

The statues have been constructed with the precision of a split-second photograph, a monk about to chomp into a large peach (the face contorted almost into a scream), a figure caught turning around to emphasize a discussion point, another about to clap two cymbals together, yet another cursing a pet monster. Nothing is spared; the expressions of joy, anger, grief or boredom are extremely vivid.

So lifelike are the sculptures that they were considered in bad taste by Li Guangxiu's contemporaries (some of whom no doubt appeared in caricature), and upon the project's completion he disappeared into thin air.

Opening Hours: 08:30 to 18:00