Beijing Five Pagoda Temple (Wuta Temple)
Situated to the north of Beijing Zoo in Haidian District, the Five Pagoda Temple is an ideal place to appreciate the splendid history of Buddhism and architecture in China as well as to enjoy the pleasant scenery and special tranquility.
The Five Pagoda Temple, aka Wuta Temple, is located in the east of Baishi Qiao, north bank of the Changhe River, close to the north gate of Beijing Zoo. It has the oldest and most beautiful Vajrasana Pagoda (diamond throne pagoda) among the total six in China. Beijing Stone Carvings Art Museum is established within it. It has nice exhibition halls to the east, west and north of the Vajrasana Pagoda.
With its original name of 'Zhenjue Temple' (as the name engraved in the entrance), it was first constructed during the Yongle years (1403 - 1424) of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) and completed in 1473. At that time, an Indian monk came to China to present Emperor Chengzu, the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty, five golden statues of Buddha and a draft of an Indian diamond throne pagoda. Using this draft, the special Five Pagoda Temple was built backing on the Western Hill and facing the rippling Changhe River.
During the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), it twice underwent extensive renovations and was renamed 'Da Zhengjue Temple'. In succeeding years until modern times, it has been totally renovated. In 1982, it opened to the public. Today, it is popularly referred to as the Five-Pagoda Temple.
The main architecture in the Five Pagoda Temple is the grand construction of the Indian 'diamond throne pagoda' style, wherein five pagodas stand on a square foundation known as the throne. It does not copy the Indian model, but has its own unique style fusing the Indian pattern with traditional Chinese architectural art and carving.
The whole construction, made of bricks and bluestones, has two parts:
One is the 25-foot-high square foundation with six stories. The first story with a height of 5.8 feet (1.8m) is the base of the whole construction. Each of the five stories above has a narrow eave and carvings of small Buddhist shrines and Buddhas, as well as bas-reliefs of Buddhist objects and Sanskrit letters on its four sides.
The other part is the five pagodas rising from their square bases on top of the throne foundation. One pagoda is in the center and the others in the four corners of the foundation respectively. The central one, 26 feet (8m) in height is a little higher than the others and has 13 stories, two more than the others in the corners. All of them are dainty in appearance and artistic in design. They are all engraved with delicate images of Buddha, bodhi trees, Sanskrit letters and Buddhist symbols as well as lions, elephants, horses and other animal figures. The images of Buddha on them represent Buddha in five directions according to the sutra. In addition, it is interesting that the south wall of the base story of the central pagoda is carved with a pair of footprints of Buddha, meaning that the spirit of Buddha spreads everywhere.
The complex, with the diamond throne pagoda as its essence, is an outstanding accomplishment of Buddhist art. The carvings in Sanskrit also provide priceless material for research of the ancient Indian language and Tibetan Buddhism. Today, bearing a history of over 500 years, it is not only a solemn religious relic, but also the location of the Art Museum of Stone Carvings which displays more than 2000 pieces of stone artworks for tourists.
Related Reading: Five-Pagoda Temple in Hohhot
Take Subway Line 4 or Line 9 and get off at Guojia Tushuguan (National Library) Station. Get out from Exit C and then walk east along the river bank for about five minutes.
Take bus 86, 92, 332, 563, 588, 653, 658, 695, 717, or Special Line 4, 18, 19, or Yuntong 105, or Yuntong 106 and get off at Guojia Tushuguan Station.
Beijing Bus / Subway Search
|Admission Fee||CNY 20, free for the first 200 visitors on Wednesday.|
|Opening Hours||09:00-16:30; last admission at 16:00. Closed on Monday except it's a public holiday.|
Nearby Scenic Spots:
Big Bell Temple
Purple Bamboo Garden