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Yunju Temple


Yunju Temple is a Buddhist temple located in Fangshan District, 70 kilometers southwest of Beijing and contains the world’s largest collection of stone Buddhist sutra steles in the world. Yunju Temple also contains one of only two extant woodblocks for the Chinese Buddhist Tripitaka in the world and rare copies of printed and manuscript Chinese Buddhist Tripitakas. It also has many historic pagodas dating from the Tang and Liao Dynasty. 

The exact year Yunju Temple was built is unknown; however it was probably during the Northern Qi Dynasty (550 CE – 570 CE). Around 611 CE, a high priest named Jingwan made a vow to engraved Buddhist sutras on stone steles to insure Buddhism's future survival because of the challenges Chinese Buddhism recently faced during the anti-Buddhist campaigns of Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei and Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou. Venerable Jingwan therefore set in motion a movement to engraved Buddhist sutras on stone steles that continued for over a thousand years; 

The last stone sutra stele engraved is dated to 1691 CE --- although by that time. the belief in the impending disaster of the Degenerate Age had subsided. The stone sutra steles varied in size and were engraved on both sides. In addition to text, they were also engraved sometimes with images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as well as Siddham Letters. The collection of stone sutra steles is also sometimes called the Fangshan Stone Sutra. Venerable Jingwan initially vowed to engrave twelve categories of sutras on stone steles; at least ten titles still survive today. His successors continued his work. One of them was involved in the engraving of the oldest extant copy (dated to 661 CE) of Tripitaka Master Xuanzang’s 649 CE translation of the Heart Sutra. During the Sui and Tang Dynasties, donors oftentimes determined which sutra to engraved on the stone stele; 

Hence many sutras were engraved multiple times. During the Liao Dynasty, royal patronage attempted to complete the engraving of the incomplete Mahayana sutras and missing Mahayana titles. Also during this time, royal patronage attempted to engrave on stone stele the entire Liao Dynasty’s Khitan Tripitaka (Chinese: ???). Because the Sui and Tang Dynasty manuscripts on which the Sui and Tang Dynasty stone steles were based as well as the printed copies of the Khitan Tripitaka on which the Liao and Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) stone sutras were based have largely disappeared, this makes the Fangshan stone sutras of Yunju Temple a rare treasure house of Buddhist sutras. Since these stone steles were engraved with an eye on fidelity to the original, they can be used to potentially correct later printed Tripitakas. 

Since Venerable Jingwan’s time a total of nine caves were excavated and filled with stone sutra steles, two underground depository rooms were also excavated and numerous temple halls were added and repaired. The most famous cave is Cave No. 5 popularly known as Leiyin Cave (Chinese: ???). This cave is opened for public viewing and is a large cave covered with stone sutra steles on four walls with an area for Buddhist ceremonies. Formerly a statue of Maitreya, the next Buddha was enshrined here but it was removed by unknown persons during the early 1940s. Buddha relics or sarira were also enshrined in this cave and were rediscovered on November 27, 1981. 

In total, 1,122 Buddhist sutras in 3572 volumes were produced at the temple consisting of over 14,200 stone steles engraved on both sides.

There are also over 22,000 scrolls of rare printed or manuscript sutras kept at Yunju Temple. The Ming Dynasty’s Yongle Southern Tripitaka (1420 CE) and Yongle Northern Tripitaka (1440 CE) are stored here as well as individual printed sutras and manuscripts.

Yunju Temple also has one of only two extant complete woodblocks of the Chinese Tripitaka in the world : namely the Qianlong Tripitaka (1733). Carved on over 77,000 blocks, it attracts a large number of visitiors.

Yunju Temple also has two bone relics of the Buddha (sarira) avalilable for public viewing. 

In the early 1940s, a significant portion of the temple was destroyed; however substantial portions have since been restored. 

Layout & Function
There were originally six halls in the temple, arranged from east to west. On both sides of the halls, there was accommodation for guests and dormitories for monks.


The temple contains a total of twelve pagodas from the Tang and Liao dynasties and three tomb pagodas from the Qing dynasty.


Opening hours: 8:30 - 16:30

Admission Fee: CNY 40

Getting there: Take Bus No. 836 at Tianqiao (??) or Liuliqiao (???) to Liangxiang West Gate (????), and transfer to Bus No. 12 or 31 to Yunju Temple.

Address: Cultural Relics Administration of Yunju Temple, Shuitou Village South, Dashiwo Town, Fangshan District, Beijing.

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