5 Lumicang Hutong, Chaoyangmen Nanxiaojie
HOURS: Daily 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
METRO: Chaoyangmen (Line 2)
Known as Zhihua Si in Mandarin, this temple sits behind a low red wall on Lumicang Hutong. A Buddhist temple, it was commissioned by Ming Dynasty eunuch Wang Zhen as an ancestral hall in 1443 during the reign of the Yingzhong Emperor. It is the only wooden building complex to survive from the Ming era and was declared a cultural relic in 1961.
Inside the main gate is a series of halls and pavilions, the most impressive of which is the Tathagata Hall, containing a statue of Tathagata (the name Buddha used to refer to himself), and 9,999 statues in niches on the walls of the 2nd floor. Also interesting are the rare black roof tiles and the 400-ton wooden Tripitaka cabinet containing Buddhist sutras in Chinese.
The 20,000-square-meter (215,000 sq. ft.) temple compound contains the Beijing Cultural Exchange Museum, which opened in 1992. Living at the temple is a group of monk musicians: its six members come from 27 generations of players. The monks perform regularly.