Beijing is a city with a rich cultural history and unsurprisingly there is an abundance of old spiritual sites from many different religions. Many of the famous places that come to mind when you think about spiritual destinations in Beijing such as the Temple of Heaven are quite sterile. When you visit its obvious that they have not been used by hundreds of years and competing with swarms of tourists can make it hard to find any sense of tranquility. Here’s five stops that are a little less well known and just might help you find a little quiet.
1. Lu Yu Xuan Tea house (Lù yŭ xuān chálóu, 露雨轩茶楼)
This little known tea house in the northern part of the CBD is a bastion of serenity. It is located fairly close to the mudanyuan subway stop (Mŭ dān yuán dìtiě zhàn 牡丹园地铁站) but you’ll still probably want to catch a cab from the station. The building is in the style of a Buddhist temple both inside and out. Furnished with antique tables and chairs it feels like a place outside of time. The tea house is spilt into two floors the ground floor for general patrons and the upper floor of private rooms which can be hired out by the hour. The middle of the building features a Buddhist shrine where you can leave offerings. There is a delicious range of teas on offer and a snack bar of season fruits, nuts and cakes which is free and self serve. Except to spend around 200 yuan for your selection of teas, expensive but worth it.
Address: 2 Taiping Village Road, Haidian District (北太平庄路2号)
2. The Ox Street Mosque (Niú jiē lĭ bàisì,牛街礼拜寺)
The Niú jiē Mosque was the first mosque built in Beijing, with the original site dating back to 996 CE. Located in the XuanWu district the mosque is only a short walk from the Guang’anmen Inner metro station (Guăng’ān mén nèi zhàn, 广安门内站).
It’s an incredibly interesting building to visit with traditional Chinese architecture mixed with the layout of an Islamic mosque. The walls are painted with Chinese art then lettered with Arabic text it’s an interesting dynamic that you can’t see in many places. The mosque is still currently in use and so you can’t access all of the areas as a tourist, but that doesn’t mean you feel unwelcome in the grounds. If you do visit just be respectful of other cultures and realise that more conservative dress is appropriate. The mosque also has a tiny gift shop which actually can be a great place to buy some souvenirs as the wares are more authentic and less kitschy then many other places in Beijing. Overall this mosque has a sense of steady quiet and tranquility they can only come from such an old building.
Entrance Fee: CNY 10
Opening Hours: 8am- 6pm
3. The Silver Mountain Pagoda Forest (Yín shān tălín, 银山塔林)
The Silver Mountain Pagoda Forest is located close to Chāngpíng (昌平）and accessible via the Nanshao metro station (南邵地铁站). The park’s picturesque ruins make for an excellent day trip. The pagodas are the remnants of a Buddhist temple, with parts of the sight dating back to the Tang Dynasty. The temple ruins are a short walk from the car park and admission gate. Approximately 1 hour of hiking will get you to the top of Silver Mountain, with spectacular views of the surrounding valley. The track is well maintained with concrete stairs and path for most of the way. Make sure to bring your own water and snacks as the park is quite isolated.
The area retains a sense of the sacred with incense burners and prayer flags in abundance. The silence of the surrounding hills is interrupted only by the sound of people ringing an ancient bell located halfway up the hillside.
Entrance fee: 30 Yuan
Opening hours: dawn- dusk
Getting there: Subway to NanShao station (南邵地铁站) then hire a car CNY 100–150 return
4. The Lama Temple (Yōnghé gōng, 雍和宫)
Yonghe gong is one of my favourite spots in Beijing it’s super easy to get to with its own Subway stop. The temple grounds are a sprawling complex of Han Chinese and Tibetan buildings. The building was originally built in 1694 as a palace and was only converted into a monastery many years later. In 1799 it was granted imperial status and the turquoise roof tiles were replaced with the golden tiles that can be seen today.
Being so well known and easily accessible it is often crowded but if anything this just adds to its atmosphere. For the most part tourists are very respectful of the space and the sense is one of busy peacefulness. It’s a temple that is still used by many local people as a religious site and the smell of incense burning fills the air. There are numerous monks who live on site and on some occasions can be seen chanting in the halls. The buildings are beautifully constructed and wonderfully maintained giving you a stunning expanse to explore.
Entrance Fee: CNY 25
Opening Hours: 9am- 6pm
5. Temple of Enlightenment (Dà jué sì, 大觉寺)
This beautiful and sacred spot , also referred to as the Temple of Great Awakening, is located in the Western suburb of BeiJing, Hainan, just here. Nestled in the foothills of Yangtai mountain (阳台山) this quiet temple has a beautiful natural setting. Construction started on the Temple in 1068 and is a place of Buddhist worship. The Temple is home to a 900 year old ginkgo tree as well as many beautiful magnolias which create a riot of colour in Autumn. The temple is well off the tourist trail with most visitors being locals. You would only need 2 hrs to check out the temple fully which makes it is great place to start exploring the nearby scenic areas.
Although it does take a bit of time to get out there, expect about 1.5 hours of travel from Beijing central, it’s very easy just take the new number 16 subway line to Anheqiao North station (安河桥北站) and from there catch a taxi or tuktuk (about ten minutes) to the temple. All the local drivers will know where to take you if you ask for ‘da jue si’.
Entrance fee: CNY 20
Opening times: 8am- 5pm