Destination Review: Nanputuo Temple 南普陀寺 in Xiamen

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Discover the majesty of Buddhist temple architecture in the Chinese subtropics

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This is Xiamen’s most popular temple as tourist destination.  I first visited this admittedly amazing Buddhist site in the middle of August, 2013 and, aside from it being summer, it wasn’t a peak travel period.  Despite this, the temple was packed with tourists and some of the halls were stifling from all the bodies and incense. 

Despite the crowds, the temple is worth visiting as an excellent representative example of Buddhist temple architecture in southern China.  There are helpful explanatory plaques outside each hall detailing the hall’s function and the identities of the statuary inside.  The temple is said to date back to the Tang Dynasty, although the buildings themselves are modern constructions.  In fact, when I visited in 2013, many of the halls were being demolished in anticipation of reconstruction.  The name Nanputuo, refers to the temple’s location south of the even better known Putuo Shan in Zhejiang Province. 

Head to the rear of the temple and follow the paved paths up into the hills.  As you hike up, you can bask in the subtropical foliage, catch the views overlooking Xiamen University and the twin Shimao towers and study the rock calligraphy and collections of small Buddhist statues left by worshippers and pilgrims.  After you’ve exhausted yourself huffing it up the hill, consider having lunch in the temple’s excellent vegetarian restaurant.    

How to get there: Take the 1, 21, 45, 751, 841 or 959 bus routes to 厦大Xià dà.  You could also take the 87 bus to the 南普陀Nán pǔtuó station. 

Hours: The temple is open to visitors from 5:40 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Prices: Free

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Wei Tuo, the Chinese Protector of Buddhist Doctrine. Here he holds a staff pointing downward, a symbol meaning this temple houses pilgrims.

 

 

Burning joss paper or ghost money on behalf of deceased relatives. Practices like these, common in many Chinese Buddhist temples, blur the line between tourism and pilgrimage.

 

Buddhist statuary left as offerings by tourists/pilgrims. Such statues can be bought relatively inexpensively in small shops usually found adjacent to temples.

 

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