Buddhism in Yunnan

The widely spreading Buddhism in Yunnan includes three divisions, namely Hynayana (Small Wheel or Southern Buddhism), Mahayana (Big Wheel or Chinese Buddhism) and Tibetan Buddhism (Lamaism) among which, in China, Hynayana can only be found in Yunnan Province.

Hynayana Buddhism

Hynayana Buddhism mainly spreads in Xishuangbanna, De’hong, Simao, Lincang, and Baoshan prefectures. The Dai, Bulang, De’ang, Achang people and some Was are the main followers; the monks and priests in temples also take the responsibility to teach minority cultures. Especially, Dai boys, when reaching a certain age, are required to spend a period of monastic life in the temples as novices from seven days to several months; after that, most of them will return home, and the rest will continue their self-cultivation and become members of religious service staff. Significant pagodas and temples for Hynayana are: Manfeilong Pagodas in Jinghong, Jingzhen Octagonal Pagoda in Menghai, Guangyun Myanmar Temple in Guangyun, Copper Buddha Hall of Yuangtong Temple in Kunming, Mange Temple in Jinghong, Foguang Temple in Mangshi, Jiele Golden Pagoda in Ruili etc.

Mahayana Buddhism

Mahayana is popular mainly in Kunming, Dali, Baoshan, Yuxi, Honghe, Chuxiong, Dongchuan, Qujing, Lincang and Zhaotong areas, the followers are Han, Bai, Naxi, Yi and Lahu people. Famous temples and pagodas include Yuantong Temple, Bamboo Temple and Huating Temple in Kunming, Chongsheng Temple, Bronze Tile Temple in Dali, the Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple in Dali, Jingang Pagoda in Kunming’s Guandu, Shizhongshan Buddhist Grottoes in Jianchuan etc.

Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism is mainly practiced by Naxi, Pumi, and some Lisu people in Lijing, Diqing and Nujiang Prefectures. Famous temples are Gedan Songzanlin (Yellow Hat Sect) Monastery, Dabao Monastery in Shangri-la, Yufeng Monastery in Lijiang etc.

Major Buddhist Temples in Yunnan

Yuantong Temple圆通寺

With a history of more than 1,200 years, Yuantong Temple is the grandest and most important Buddhist temple in Yunnan Province. King Yi Mouxun of the Nanzhao Kingdom built the temple in the late eighth century; and the restorations from the Qing Dynasty onward have not changed the unique mixed architectural style of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. Sakyamuni, Amitabha and the Medicine Buddha, all Yuan Dynasty statues, are found in the major hall. The surrounding 500 Buddhist Arhats that are carved in the walls are noted for their perfect proportions and lively appearances. In 1982, Thai Buddhists sent a 3.5-meter-high copper statue of Sakyamuni, which is now placed in the Copper Buddha Hall combining Chinese and Tai styles.

Chongsheng Temple崇圣寺

Three Pogadas’ mother building was known as Chongsheng Monastery and used to be the royal temple of the Kingdom of Dali and one of the largest Buddhist centers in south-east Asia. It was originally built at the same time as the first pagoda but was destroyed in a fire in the Qing Dynasty reign period. The temple was later rebuilt in 2005. It was recorded that Qianxun Pagoda had been split in an earthquake on May 6th, 1515 AD in Ming Dynasty. However, it miraculously recovered ten days later in an aftershock. The most recent record of severe earthquake in the Dali area occurred in 1925. Only one in a hundred of the buildings in Dali survived, but the Three Pagodas were undamaged.

Qiongzhu Temple筇竹寺

Qiongzhu Temple, or Bamboo Temple, is a Buddhist temple situated on Yu’an Mountain to the northwest of Kunming, Yunnan, China. The Bamboo Temple was established during the Yuan dynasty as the first temple dedicated to Zen Buddhism in Yunnan. It has since been burned down and reconstructed several times. The present structure mostly dates from the late Qing dynasty. The temple is most renowned for the painted clay sculptures of the 500 Buddhist arhats. The sculptures which are known as the “sculptured pearls in the oriental treasure-house” were created during the reign of the Guangxu Emperor (r. 1875–1908) in the Qing dynasty, when the temple was undergoing major repairs.

Songzanlin Monastery 松赞林寺

Built in 1679, the monastery is the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple complex in Yunnan province and one of the famous monasteries in the Kang region, which belongs to the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism of the Gelukpa order of the Dalai Lama. It is reputed as the Little Potala Palace due to its complex of Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Located in the capital of Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, it is also the most important monastery in southwest China. 

Huating Temple华亭寺

Huating Temple is a Buddhist temple located in Xishan District of Kunming, Yunnan, China. Along the central axis are the Four Heavenly Kings Hall, Mahavira Hall, Guanyin Hall and Buddhist Texts Library. There are over 10 halls and rooms on both sides, including Guru Hall, Abbot Hall, Monastic Dining Hall, Monastic Reception Hall and Meditation Hall. 

Yunnan Buddhism Photography Tips

Yunnan Buddhism Photography Tips

Yunnan is easily one of the most photogenic regions on the planet. Photography in Yunnan is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and wander around a thousand-year-old ethnic villages, the beautiful Dianchi...

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