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Qiongzhu Temple

Qiongzhu Temple Kunming, Yunnan ToursLocated on the Yu'an Mountain (Jade Table Mountain), 7 kilometers north-west of Kunming, Qiongzhu Temple (Bamboo Temple) can be dated back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD). Burned down and reconstructed in the 15th century, it was restored from 1883 to 1890 when the abbot employed the master Sichuan sculptor Li Guangxiu and his apprentices to fashion 500 Buddhist arhats.

These life-sized clay figures are stunning - either very realistic or very surrealistic - a sculptural tour deforce that will blow your mind. Down one huge wall come the incredible surfing Buddhas, some 70 odd, riding the waves on a variety of mounts - blue dogs, giant crabs shrimp, turtles, unicorns. One gentleman has meter long eyebrows; another has an arm that shoots clear across the hall to the ceiling.

In the main section are housed row upon row of standing figures - the statues have been done with the precision of a split - second photograph - a monk about to chomp into a large peach (the face contorted into almost a scream), a figure caught turning around to emphasize a discussion point, another about to clap two cymbals together or cursing a pet monster. The old, the sick, the emaciated - nothing is spared - the expressions of joy, anger, grief or boredom are extremely vivid.

Qiongzhu Temple Kunming, Yunnan Tours

Qiongzhu Temple Kunming, Yunnan ToursQiongzhu Temple Kunming, Yunnan Tours

So accurate are the sculptures that they can be read as an anthropological documentation of the times. The sculptor's work was considered in bad taste by his contemporaries (some of whom no doubt appeared in caricature), and upon the project's completing, Li Guangxiu disappeared into thin air. The temple actually had no bamboo in the grounds till the present, when bamboo was transplanted from Chengfdu. The main halls were restored in 1958 and again, extensively, in 1992. Its architectural style of the Ming and Qing dynasties was recovered.

To get to the Qiongzhu Temple you can take bus No. 5 or No. 37. It's then a 90-minutes hike uphill to the site. Alternatively there is an express bus from the Yunnan Hotel which goes directly to the temple. If this temple is included in your tour package, the travel agency will drive you there by a special car.

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