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Religious Architecture

Chinese Altar and Temple Architecture

The worship of heaven and Earth, the sun and moon, gods and spirits, and ancestors and celebrities was a principal part of the spiritual life of all ancient Chinese people, from emperors to commoners. Alters were set up to deities, and galls and shrines were built to commemorate ancestors. The special styles of such edifices are indicated by the term "altar and temple architecture." Alters at which emperors worshipped Heacen and Eathh, the temples for the worship of Confucius, found all over China, and shrines to Guan Yu, a renowned general of the Three Kingdoms period(200-265), later deified. Temples and shrines for ancestral worship include the Imperial Ancestral Temple and a host of memorial halls for the worship of the ancestors of commoners, also found all over China. There altars, temples and shrines vary in shape from place to place and between ethnic groups.

It is difficult to estimate how many temples there are throughout China. The word temple in English means: a building dedicated to religious ceremonies or worship. So, I included all religious buildings which consisted of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Islam and other religions into Chinese Temples to write this channel.

Tiantan (Altar of Heaven or Temple of Heaven)was the place where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties presided over ceremonies to worship Heaven. It is located in the southern part of Beijing. The main structures are Huanqiutan(Cirular Mound), Huangqiongyu(Imperial Vault of Heaven) and Qiniandian(Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest). Looking northward from Huanqiutan, we can see that Huangqiongyu and qiniandian are situated on same northsouth axis.

The Coffered Ceiling of Huangqingyu
Inside Huangqiongyu, eight pillars support curved roof beams which constitute a triple round ceiling narrowing to a vault.Decorated with dragon patterns and the dark green of the cofferde ceiling contrasting with the red color of the coffered ceiling contrasting with the red color of the pillars, this ceiling is counted among the most beautiful vaulted ceilings in ancient Chinese architecture.

Huangquingyu was where the memorial tablet of the "Heavenly Emperor," the supreme deity,used to be enshrined. Situated on a round stone terrace, it is around structure in its round structure in its plan view, with a conical roof covered with blue glazed tiles. The round shoope of the structure and the blue color of the roof have the conotation of heaven.

The Coffered Ceiling of Qiniandian
Four pillars support the round vaulted ceiling of Qiniandian, which is painted in gorgeous colors. The pillars represent the four seasons.

Qiniandian was a place where the emperor prayed for good harvests. It is a round structure in its plan view, with a triple roof covered with blue glazed tite. It stands on a circular three-tiered stone terrace. With the bule sky in the background, Qiniandian looks resplendent and imposing.

Religious Architecture

Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism are three main religions in China. Although they have never acquired such important roles to be considered to dominate the political system in China's history as Christianity or Islam has done to some western countries. However, they do have deep influence on the development of China's politics, philosophy, art and social cultures. Chinese temples, range in size from back-alley Taoist hut to magnificent Tibetan Buddhist Drepung Monastery, the largest and richest monastery, which covers an area of over 200 thousand square meters.

The main religions of ancient China were Buddhism,Taoism and Islamism, of which Buddhism was the most widespread. As a result, Buddist temples and towers are found all over China, and have become important components of the country's ancient architecture.

Buddhism came to China from India as early as in the Han Dynasty. Right from the start, Buddhist temples and pagodas adopoted traditional Chinese architectural forms. For instance, the temples consisted of single-story structures built around one or more courtyards, often containing wooden or brick pagodas. Later, there appeared many other forms, such as the multiple-eaved design, diamong throne design and Lamaist dagobadesin.

Taoism is the only religion which originated in china. The structure of Taoist temples and shrines is typically atraditional courtyard layout.

Islam came to China in the seventh century or so. Its temples are called mosques, which contain no picture or statues. Disciples kneel and pray facing the holy city of Mecca. The mosques still keep the original pattern and style of those in the Middle East, making thmen special in Chinese religious architecture.

Generally speaking, Buddhist architecture follow the imperial style. A large Buddhist monastery normally has a front hall, housing the statue of a Bodhisattva, followed by a great hall, housing the statues of the Buddhas. Accommodations for the monks and the nuns are located at the two sides. Buddhist monasteries sometimes also have pagodas, which may house the relics of the Gautama Buddha; older pagodas tend to be four-sided, while later pagodas usually have eight-sides.

Taoist architecture, on the other hand, usually follow the commoners' style. The main entrance is, however, usually at the side, out of superstition about demons which might try to enter the premise. (See feng shui.) In contrast to the Buddhists, in a Taoist temple the main deity is located at the main hall at the front, the lesser deities at the back hall and at the sides.

- Taoism Architecture
- Buddhist Architecture 

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Baima Temple
Baima (White Horse) Temple is situated in the east of Luoyang City, Henan Province, and is the first Chinese place where Buddhist rites were performed. In 1983, it was designated as one of national key temples in the areas of the Han nationality.
Buddhist Architecture
Chinese Buddhist architecture consists of temple, pagoda and grotto. Localization starts right after Buddhist architecture was introduced into China with Buddhism during the Han dynasty, interpreting Chinese architectural aesthetics and culture.
Buddhist Temple
Buddhism spread into China in the first century AD during China's Eastern Han Dynasty (25 AD - 220 AD). Two kinds of Indian Buddhist buildings were also introduced into the country. One was Buddhist caves excavated into cliffs, hills or mountain sides, which housed a large amount of Buddha images, pagodas and monk residences. The second was architectural groups, which have temple halls, pagodas and monk residences. Architects at that time combined the second one with traditional Chinese architecture style and created Chinese style temple buildings.
Confucius Temple
Daci'en Temple
Daci'en Temple is located in the southern suburb of Xi'an City, Shaanxi Province, originally Jinchang Lane (the First Street of Capital's East) in the southeast of Chang'an City, the capital of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). It was the largest temple in China's Tang Dynasty as well as one of the three Buddhist scriptures translation places of Chang'an City in the Tang Dynasty.
Daming Temple
Daming Temple is situated in the northwest of Yangzhou City, Jiangsu Province, and was the place where Jianzhen, an accomplished monk in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), performed Buddhist rites. In 1983, it was designated as one of national key temples in the areas of the Han nationality.
Famen Temple
In China, many temples house treasures and artifacts, but the sheer quantity and quality of treasures in the Famen Temple is rare. Situated in Famen Town of Fufeng County, about 120 kilometers (about 74.57 miles) west of Xian, Famen Temple is renowned for storing the veritable four slivers of the finger bone of the Sakyamuni Buddha.
Fayuan Temple
Fayuan Temple is situated in Fayuansiqian Street, Xuanwu District of Beijing. It is the oldest extant temple in Beijing. In 1983, it was designated as one of national key temples in the areas of the Han nationality. Now, it is the site of the Chinese Buddhist Academy.
Ganlu Temple
Ganlu Temple is situated on Jiuhua Mountain in the south of Anhui Province, and is one of important temples on the mountain. In 1983, it was designated as one of national key temples in the areas of the Han nationality. Now, it is the site of Jihua Mountain Buddhist Academy.
Guangji Temple
Guangji Temple, situated in Fuchengmennei Street, Xisi, Beijing, is a famous ancient Buddhist temple in Beijing. In 1983, it was designated as one of national key temples in the areas of the Han nationality. Now, it is the site of Chinese Buddhism Association.
Guoqing Temple
Guoqing Temple is located at the foot of the southern side of Tiantai Mountain, Zhejiang Province, China, and is the cradle of Buddhism's Tiantai Sect in China and Japan. In 1983, this temple was designated one of national key temples in the areas of the Han nationality by China's State Council.
Holy Lands
Islam Mosques
Islam was introduced into China during the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907) and the Islamic mosques built at that time inherited the Arabian style, featured vaulting roofs and tall thin minarets.
Kaiyuan Temple
Kaiyuan Temple, situated in West Street of Quanzhou City, Fujian Province, is the largest temple in Fujian Province. It was equally as famous as Baima Temple in Luoyang City, Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou City, and Guangji Temple in Beijing City, and has strong influence upon Taiwan and overseas Buddhists. In 1983, it was designated as one of national key temples in the areas of the Han nationality.
King Asoka Temple
King Asoka Temple is situated on King Asoka Mountain in the east of Ningbo City, Zhejiang Province, and is one of the Five Mountains of Buddhism's Chan Sect (Zen) in China.
Lingyin Temple
Lingyin Temple is situated in the northwest of West Lake, Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, as one of big ten temples of Buddhism's Chan Sect (Zen) in China. It is also a famous scenic spot. When tourists arrive in Hangzhou City, most of them will make a tour to Lingyin Temple. Therefore, Lingyin Temple is one of the top temples in China in terms of the number of received tourists.
Mogao Caves
The traveler finds the Mogao Caves, a shrine of Buddhist art treasures, 25 km (15.5miles) from downtown Dunhuang on the eastern slope of Mingsha Shan (Mount Echoing Sand). A network of plank reinforced roads plying north to south 1600 meters (5, 249 feet) long lead to the cave openings, which are stacked five stories high some reaching up to 50 meters (164 feet). By the way, Mogao means high up in the desert.
Nantai Temple
Nantai Temple is situated on Nanyue Mountain, Hengyang City, Hunan Province, and is one of famous temples of Buddhism's Chan Sect (Zen). In 1983, Nantai Temple was designated one of national key temples in the areas of the Han nationality.
Putuo Mountain
Putuo Mountain is situated on an island of Zhoushan Archipelago, Hangzhou Bay, Zhejiang Province. It has been reputed as Sea-Heaven Buddha Kingdom for a long time. This mountain and Wutai Mountain in Shanxi Province, Emei Mountain in Sichuan Province, and Jiuhua Mountain in Anhui Province are called Four Famous Mountains of China's Buddhism.
Shaolin Temple
Shaolin Temple is located at Dengfeng County, Henan Province. It is the birthplace of Buddhism's Chan Sect (Zen) in China as well as the cradle of China's Shaolin Wushu (martial arts). In 1983, it was designated as one of national key temples in the areas of the Han nationality.
South Putuo Temple
South Putuo Temple is situated in the southeast of Xiamen City, Fujian Province, adjacent to Xiamen University. As one of Buddhist famous sacred spots in the southern Fujian Province, this temple plays a very important role at home and overseas. Now, it is the site of South Fujian Buddhist Academy.
Taoism Temple
Taoism temples are so much like their Buddhist counterpart, taking the form of traditional Chinese courtyard and palace structure. You may become confused between these two but from the decorative figures and deities which people pray for, you can identify whether it's a Buddhist temple or a Taoism one.
Taoist Architecture
Taoist architecture mainly refers to the Taoist temple buildings, which basically consist of the divine hall, the alter, the room for reading sculptures and practicing asceticism, the living room, the reception room for pilgrims, and the park where visitors can have a rest. The general layout adopts the form of Chinese traditional courtyard, with the divine hall on the mean axis and the reception room and Taoists' living room, etc., on both sides. Together with a park cleverly built on the basis of the architectural complex, a kind of fairyland thus comes into being.
Wanfo Temple
Wanfo Temple is located at Yuxi Town, Fuqing County, Fujian Province. As a prestigious Buddhist monastery of Buddhism's Chan Sect (Zen) in China as well as the birthplace of Buddhism's Huangbo Sect in Japan, Wanfo Temple has a long glorious history and has produced generations of elite monks. Therefore, it is in a very significant position in the history of Sino-Japan Buddhist culture exchanges. In 1983, Wanfo Temple was designated as one of national key temples in the areas of the Han nationality.
Xiantong Temple
Xiantong Temple is situated in the north of Dabai Pagoda at the center of Wutai Mountain, Shanxi Province. In 1983, it was designated as one of national key temples in the areas of the Han nationality.
Xingjiao Temple
Xingjiao Temple is situated at Chang'an County in the south of Xi'an City, Shaanxi Province, and is one of Fanchuan Region's Big Eight Temples in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Bone relics of Xuanzang, an accomplished monk in the same dynasty, were buried here.
Xuanzhong Temple
Xuanzhong Temple is situated on Shibi Mountain in the northwest of Jiaocheng County, Shanxi Province. It is one of birthplaces of Jingtu (Pure Land) Sect, one of important sects of Chinese Buddhism, and is also deemed the birthplace by Pure Land Sect and True Pure Land Sect in Japan. In 1983, it was designated as one of national key temples in the areas of the Han nationality.
Yungang Caves
Yungang Caves, one of the three major cave clusters in China, punctuate the north cliff of Wuzhou Mountain, Datong. The area was excavated along the mountain, extending 1 km (0.62 miles) from east to west, revealing 53 caves and over 51,000 stone statues.

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