Shuanglin Temple

The Buddhist Shuanglin Temple is part of the World Heritage Site of Pingyao, stands in the countryside about 7 kilometers southwest of the ancient city. Motor-rickshaw (¥20-¥30/$2.45-$3.65 round-trip), or taxi ¥50 ($6). It was originally founded in the 6th century during the Northern Wei period, although the present buildings date to the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is notable for its collection of over two thousand decorated clay statues dating from the 12th-19th centuries.

It is famous for the 2,000-plus painted statues distributed among 10 halls in three connected courtyards. Highlights include the arhats in Tianwang Dian. Princely and dignified, they are a refreshing change from the usual gilded, grotesque variety. Statues of worshippers depict commoners in everyday dress looking humble and devout and nothing like the serene, finely clad bodhisattvas nearby. In the Pusa Dian (Bodhisattva Palace), which contains a thousand-armed Guanyin, look up at the ceiling where the green, three-clawed, round-bellied figure of a guard keeps watch.

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