China travel guide


China Travel Guide

Religious architecture

Religious architecture Both Buddhist architecture and Taoist architecture have similar features.

They generally face south and are bordered by walls like the rest of Chinese constructions. Gates are sealed by heavy doors, regularly protected by paintings or statues of warrior deities to keep away evil spirits. Once inside, there is a succession of halls arranged in ornamental courtyards. The living quarters and principal temple halls are located deeper inside the complex, far away of evil influences.

A difference between Buddhist and Taoist temples is the color of the sustaining pillars - Buddhists use bright red, while Taoists prefer black. Animal carvings are more common with Taoists, who employ ornamental good luck and longevity signs like bats and cranes; some Taoist halls also have distinctive raised octagonal cupolas showing the black-and-white yin-yang representation.

However, each religion has its own rites and deities. Inside the entrance of a Buddhist temple may be found Four Heavenly Kings of the Four Directions, and faced by portly Maitreya (the Laughing Buddha); together with a statue of Wei Tuo (the God of Wisdom).

At the principal hall there usually are three big statues sitting on lotus flowers, symbolizing Buddhas of the past, present and future, while the walls are frequently decorated with grossly caricatured images of Arhats (Buddhist saints). Roughly the Buddhist trinity is a statue of Guanyin (Goddess of Mercy), who can also stay in her own hall.

Taoist temples (Miao or Gong) are similar to Buddhist temples, but their halls are consecrated to a numerous mythical and legendary figures. Taoism has its own sacred trinity named The Three Immortals, who each ride different animals (a crane, tiger and deer) and symbolize the three levels of the Taoist spirit world.

Other popular figures include the Yellow Emperor, Zhuge Liang, Guan Yu (the red-faced God of War and Healing), and several local idols. It is also commonly find statues to Guanyin in Taoist halls representing the Goddess of Childbirth.

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