This is the first of three Friday blogs where we will feature a lesser-known, often ignored, or just generally underrated place in Beijing.
As it is one of my favorite temples in Beijing, I am surprised at how few people know of Dongyue Temple (北京东岳庙, literally “Beijing eastern peak temple”). Located just a 15-minute walk south from Worker’s Stadium, this Taoist temple is tucked amongst the high rises of downtown Beijing.
Upon entering, Dongyue seems like an ordinary Chinese temple. There’s an entrance with a red gate and two large white stone tablets, and the inside opens up into a courtyard layout. However, walking further in, you will discover Dongyue is anything but.
Encircling the central two courtyards are 76 rooms or “departments” (very impressive for such a small temple) that each feature a set of statues from the Taoist supernatural world.
Outside each department is a sign that explains what gods the figures are and a collection box. As expected, the Department for Accumulating Wealth has significantly more donations stuffed into their boxes than the Department for Rain.
Some of the figures in the departments, especially the ones with animal heads, look a little cheesy, but the explanations on the signs are interesting and just brief enough to send your imagination running wild. When I visit Dongyue with my younger siblings, I like making up stories for each set of figures.
While almost all of the figures are just plain weird, be warned of rooms like the Department of Punishment; the figures there are scary enough for Halloween!
The neighborhood around Dongyue doesn’t offer much for lunch besides fast food restaurants like Pizza Hut and McDonalds, but Dongyue is a short drive or bike ride from Sanlitun, which provides more options.
Side note: Yes, it hard to think about because it is seven months away, but the Chinese New Year temple fair at Dongyue is incredible. The courtyards are completely transformed to host traditional games and performances, as well as an entire section dedicated to local treats.
Beijing Dongyue Temple 北京东岳庙: Daily 8:30am-4:30pm. 141 Chaowai Dajie, Chaoyang District, Beijing (010 6551 0151) 北京市朝阳区朝阳门外大街141号
See it on a map here.
Admission: RMB 10
Photo courtesy of eatswords on flickr.
Leah Sprague is a high school senior and beijingkids’ intern for July. After living in Seattle for two years, Leah is super excited to be back in Beijing, where she lived from 2009-2012. When not at the office, Leah can be found biking or subway-ing around the city, soaking up everything before she leaves again in August.