Article: Where to go for Religious Tourism in China

In Guides, Travel by TechnoOwl

Ancestral Worship and Cults of Nature/Folk Religion/Imperial Religion

  • Temple of Heaven [Beijing]: Most prominent building of the imperial cult, where the Ming and Qing emperor would observe rites for good harvest
  • Chen Clan Academy [Guangzhou, Guangdong]: An excellent and unique example of a 祠 (cí), an ancestral shrine dedicated to a lineage or clan.
  • Wuhou Shrine [Chengdu, Sichuan]: The mausoleum of Liu Bei, popular figure of the Three Kingdoms era, surrounded by a shrine dedicated to his kingdom. An interesting 祠 shrine dedicated to a claimant to the Emperor of China.
  • Ming Xiaoling Tomb [Nanjing, Jiangsu]: A classic example of an imperial tomb and a good place to learn about the architecture and burial practices of an imperial decedent (imperial tombs are all over Xi’an and Beijing area).
  • Chaotian Temple [Yunlin County, Taiwan]: One of the most extravagant Mazu temples, visited by more than a million pilgrims every year
  • Tian Hau Temple in Joss House Bay [Hong Kong]: The oldest Tian Hau temple in Hong Kong
  • Just walk the streets of Hong Kong: street shrines are everywhere in Hong Kong, and you can get a sense of the melding of spiritual places with urban environments
Five Great Mountains
  • Tai Shan [Shandong]: Emperors and tourists have all ascended this mountain seeking long life and great views. Eastern mountain of the Five Great Mountains system, hosting the Dai Miao Taoist temple.
  • Hua Shan [Shaanxi]: A western mountain of the Five Great Mountains system, marked for its beautiful white precipice
  • Heng Shan [Hunan]: Southern mountain of the Five Great Mountains system, hosting the large Grand Temple of Mount Heng.
  • Heng Shan [Shanxi]: Northern mountain of the Five Great Mountains system, hosting the Hanging Temple, which has the rare distinction of having a “Hall of Three Religions”, where the Three Teachings physically share a hall in a temple.
  • Song Shan [Henan]: Central mountain of China’s Five Great Mountains system: the mountain hosts the Taoist Zhongyue Temple and the famous Buddhist Shaolin Temple.

Confucianism

  • Temple of Confucius [Qufu, Shandong]: The largest Confucian temple of China, with the Kong Family Mansion and Cemetery of Confucius nearby.
  • Beijing Temple of Confucius [Beijing]: The second largest Confucian temple
  • Nanjing Fuzimiao [Nanjing, Jiangsu]: A scenic Confucian temple next to a bustling night market, accompanied by a museum on the imperial examinations across the street

Taoism

  • City God Temple of Shanghai [Shanghai]: Popular tourist attraction but at its core is a temple devoted to the god patronizing the now dizzying, vertical, and highly vibrant city of Shanghai
  • City God Temple of Pingyao [Pingyao, Shanxi]: A temple mixing Song and Qing dynasty architectural styles devoted to the City God of a settlement still boasting its Ming-era walls.
  • Wong Tai Sin Temple [Hong Kong]: A bustling temple in Hong Kong with many devotees which famously gets busy every Western New Year
Four Sacred Mountains
  • Wudang Shan [Hubei]
  • Longhu Shan [Jiangxi]
  • Qiyun Shan [Anhui]
  • Qingcheng Shan [Sichuan]

Chinese Buddhism

  • White Horse Temple [Luoyang, Henan]: The first Buddhist temple in Chinese tradition.
  • Daxiangguo Temple [Kaifeng, Henan]: One of the largest Buddhist establishment in its time, built during the Northern Qi Dynasty and greatly expanded in the Song Dynasty while Kaifeng was its capital.
  • Famen Temple [Fufeng County, Shaanxi]: A grand temple recently reconstructed near Xi’an holding a relic of the Buddha.
  • Lingyin Temple [Hangzhou, Zhejiang]: A very beautiful and expansive temple complex in the hills away from Hangzhou, this temple is also marked by its own complex of grotto carvings and statutes.

Famous Cave/Grotto Temples & Carvings

  • Mogao Caves [Dunhuang, Gansu]: Always a must-go, this is the most famous of the caves, its art displaying an astounding synthesis of Chinese, Tibetan, and Central Asian motifs.
  • Yulin Grottos [Dunhuang, Gansu]
  • Maijishan [Tianshui, Gansu]
  • Binglingsi Grottos [Yongjing County, Gansu]
  • Matisi Grottos [Zhangye, Gansu]
  • Yungang Grottos [Datong, Shanxi]
  • Longmen Grottos [Luoyang, Henan]
  • Dazu Rock Carvings [Chongqing]
  • Bezeklik Caves [Turpan, Xinjiang]
  • Kizil Caves [Kuqa, Xinjiang]
Four Sacred Mountains
  • Wutai Shan [Shanxi]: Abode of Wénshū Púsà / Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva
  • Emei Shan [Sichuan]: Abode of Pǔxián Púsà / Samantabhadra Bodhisattva
  • Jiuhua Shan [Anhui]: Abode of Dìzàng Púsà/ Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva
  • Putuo Shan [Zhejiang]: Abode of Guānyīn Púsà/ Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva

Tibetan Buddhism

Jokhang Temple [Lhasa, Tibet]: Tibet’s holiest site, where the King Songtsen Gampo brought back Buddhist figures and introduced Buddhism to his empire

Six Major Gelugpa Monasteries
  • Ganden Monastery [Lhasa, Tibet]: Tsongkhapa, the founder of Gelugpa, founded and made this monastery his primary seat
  • Drepung Monastery [Lhasa, Tibet]
  • Sera Monastery [Lhasa, Tibet]
  • Tashi Lhunpo Monastery [Xigazê, Tibet]: The Panchen Lama takes office in this monastery.
  • Kumbum Monastery [Xining, Qinghai]: The monastery founded to commemorate Tsongkhapa’s birthplace
  • Labrang Monastery [Xiahe, Gansu]: Historically one of the most significant Gelugpa institutes of learning in the Tibetan world
Tibetan Temples Outside Tibet
  • Yonghe Temple [Beijing]: Tibetan temple built in the capital of the Qing
  • Dazhao Temple [Hohhot, Inner Mongolia]: The largest and oldest Tibetan monastery in Inner Mongolia’s capital
  • Guangzong Temple [Alxa Left Banner, Inner Mongolia]: Founded by a disciple of the Sixth Dalai Lama and containing relics of the Sixth Dalai Lama
  • Meidaizhao Monastery [Tumed Right Banner, Inner Mongolia]: A grand monastery complex started by Altan Khan, the reuniter of the Mongols after the ascent of the Ming Dynasty.
  • Wudangzhao [Baotou, Inner Mongolia]: The largest lamasery in Inner Mongolia
Holy Mountains
  • Kangrinboqê (better known as Mount Kailash) [Tibet]
  • Anyê Maqên [Qinghai]
  • Ghado Jobo [Qinghai]
  • Kawagarbo [Yunnan]

Islam

  • Great Mosque of Xi’an [Xi’an, Shaanxi]: Likely the first mosque in China, distinguished by its mixture of Islamic and Chinese architecture (although to be frank, many mosques in China share this style)
  • Niujie Mosque [Beijing]: Oldest and largest mosque in Beijing
  • Dongguan Grand Mosque [Xining, Qinghai]: The largest mosque in Xining and a particularly potent and thriving one that attracts many visitors every year.
  • Id Kah Mosque [Kashgar, Xinjiang]: One of the largest and most historically significant mosques in Xinjiang.
  • Afaq Khoja Mausoleum [Kashgar, Xinjiang]: Fine example of Islamic architecture in Xinjiang, containing the tombs of a family who played a prominent role in propagating Sufism in the region
  • Huaisheng Mosque [Guangzhou, Guangdong]: An old mosque of uncertain age known for its unusual “plain” pointed minaret.

Catholic Christianity

  • St. Ignatius Cathedral [Shanghai]: Seat of the Bishop of Shanghai and HQ of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Shanghai
  • Sacred Heart Cathedral [Guangzhou]
  • St. Paul’s Ruins [Macau]

Orthodox Christianity

  • Saint Sophia Cathedral [Harbin]
  • Church of the Intercession of the Mother of God [Harbin]