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The Yuan Tong Monastery

As one of the largest Buddhist monasteries in Kunming City proper, the Yuan Tong Monastery near the Green Lake is also one of the monasteries with the longest history in Kunming. Built during the Nanzhao-Tang Dynasty, 1200 years ago (though it has been rebuilt and renovated throughout its history), the monastery has been regarded as one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in Yunnan. Even now it has been chosen to be the office location for the Yunnan Provincial and Kunming Municipal Buddhism Association.

There are three schools of Buddhism practice: Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana or Tibetan Buddhism. Eveyone of them has their own distinctive characteristics. Yuan Tong Monastery is the only place in China where you can observe all of them in one site. The typical Mahayana architectural style and layout is the main theme in the monastery, which is especially reflected by the Yuan Tong Precious Hall. The architectural ideas of the other two schools were perfectly incorporated into the Monastery. Rather than ascending upward, as in the usual Buddhist architectures style, after you step over the threshold of the monastery gate (you are not supposed to step on it), it is a downhill slope that leads to the complex. It is said this is to resemble a treasure bowl.

There is a pond in the center of the monastery, and a bridge was built to cross over the pond, on which an octagonal pavilion was built during the Ming Dynasty more than 400 years ago. The number eight in Buddhism is to symbolize the doctrine of the difference from the statue in the Mahayana Hall, clearly telling the differences between these two schools. The relatively newly added Vajrayana Temple with its colorful decorations and fragrant-burning incenses make it awesome and mysterious.

Revered for its important role in Buddhism, Yuan Tong Monastery is a popular pilgrimage site among Buddhists and the followers of Buddhism from all over the world, especially those from Southeast Asia. In addition to this, tourists from home and abroad are also attracted here for the traditional architecture and garden-like landscapes. It was listed as a Provincial Cultural Relic Site for Protection in 1998.

Located in downtown Kunming, it can be accessed easily by taking buses 100, 101, 119, 85, 92 and 95. It is within a 20 minute walking distance from Wen Hua Xiang or Culture Alley. Green Lake and Yuan Tong Shan Park are very close to Yuan Tong Monastery.



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