Guangxiao Temple on Guangxiao Road is the oldest and largest Buddhist sanctuary in the Lingnan Region. The temple has a long history. A common saying goes: “First there was the Guangxiao Temple and then came Guangzhou”. The historical sites in the temple include the Mahavira Hall built in the Eastern Jin Dynasty, the 1,000-Buddha Iron Pagoda built in the Southern Han Dynasty, the Hall of the Sixth Patriarch and the Hall of Sleeping Buddha built in the Song and Ming dynasties. There are also ancient stone inscriptions, Buddha statues, Buddhist paintings and other rare Buddhist relics.
Temple of the Six Banyan Trees (Liurong Temple)
The Temple of the Six Banyan Trees (Liurong Temple) on Liurong Road, originally built 1,400 years ago in A.D. 537, is one of the four greatest Buddhist temples in Guangzhou. It has preserved many Buddhist cultural relics through its long history. The 57.6-meter-high Liurong Pagoda, formerly known as Dagoba, is famous in Guangzhou for its height. To its east is the temple’s front gate, the Hall of Maitreya, the Hall of Heavenly Kings and the Hall of Skanda. To the west of the pagoda is the Mahavira Hall with three giant brass statues of Buddha cast in 1663 during the Qing Dynasty. They are the largest brass statues from ancient times still in existence in Guangdong Province.
Enshrined in the Hall of the Sixth Patriarch in the Banyan Shade Garden is a brass statue of Monk Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch of the Buddhist Zen Sect. The seated statue, cast in A.D. 989 with a height of 1.8 meters and weighing about 1 ton, has a solemn and life-like look with the eyes closed. Luxuriant banyan trees give a large stretch of shade in front of the hall.
The Hualin Temple on Hualinsi Street off Shangxiajiu Road in Liwan District has a particular meaning to Guangzhou. During the Liang Dynasty, Bodhidharma, a prominent Buddhist monk from India, landed in the area of present Shangxiajiu Road. He built a thatched hut to propagate the Buddhist Zen Sect in China. People later called the hut “Temple from the West”. Propagation of the Buddhist Zen Sect in this temple continued through the Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties. In the early Qing Dynasty, Monk Zongfu collected funds and built the Mahavira Hall in 1655 and later other structures in the temple. Abbot Zhiyuan built a hall to house statues of 500 arhats at the order of the emperor. The Hall of the 500 Arhats is 31 meters wide and 44 meters long with a total area of 1,364 square meters. Except the 500 clay statues of arhats in the hall, there are also the statues of the “Buddhas of the Three Words” – Medicine Buddha, Gautama Buddha(Shakyamuni) and Amitabha Buddha.
The Haizhuang Temple in the Haizhuang Park between Middle Nanhua Road and Middle Tongfu Road was one of the four greatest Buddhist temples in Guangzhou during the Qing Dynasty (Others are Guangxiao Temple, Huanlin Temple and Liurong Temple.). The banyan trees of several hundreds years old are still flourishing in the park, giving huge stretches of shade. One of the wonders of the temple is an “eagle’s claw” tree from the Ming Dynasty. It still has a profusion of branches with lush leaves. In 1951 a rock named “Tiger Turning Its Head” was moved here from the Wu Family Garden. In 1993 the Hall of Heavenly Kings, Hall of Pagoda and the Pond for Freeing Captive Animals were restored.
The Temple of the Five Immortals (Wuxian Temple) on West Huifu Road in Yuexiu District was built during the Tang Dynasty to worship five immortals. Legend has it that five immortals descended from heaven on five rams to the area of present Guangzhou, presented rice ears to the local habitants and blessed them with eternal abundance of rice to eat. Then they rode on the wind back to heaven. Their rams turned into stone. Thus Guangzhou is also called Ram City and Rice-ear City. Local people built the Taoist temple in memory of the five immortals and sculpted statues of them riding on rams.
Sanyuan Palace on the southern slope of Yuexiu Mountain is a famous Taoist temple in Guangzhou. Its predecessor, the Yuegang Academy, was built in A.D. 319 during the Eastern Jin Dynasty. It was renamed Sanyuan Palace during the Ming Dynasty. The temple has preserved eight stone inscriptions about its repairs during the Qing Dynasty. The temple holds the popular Taoist events of Shangyuandan, Zhongyuandan and Xiayuandan. The Guangzhou Taoist Association has its office in this temple.
Guangzhou Wong Tai Sin Temple
This temple on Huadi Avenue was built in 1899, destroyed in a war and rebuilt in 1997. This grand temple bears an integral atmosphere of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism.
The Taoist temple on Renweimiao Street northeast of Liwan Lake in the western part of Guangzhou was built in 1052 to honor Xuan Wu, also called Emperor Zhenwu – Truly Martial Grand Emperor. Decorative carvings on the buildings in this temple represent the highest level of the architectural art in the Lingnan Region. It was once acclaimed as “Hall of Osmanthus and Palace of Orchid”.
The mosque on Guangta Road is also called Guangta Mosque because it has the Guangta Pagoda in its compound. It is one of the first mosques built in China after Islamism was introduced to China in the 7th century. The round Guangta Pagoda is 36 meters high. Its sharp spire shows the unique Arabic architectural style. Within the mosque there is the elder’s office, the depository, the service hall and a bathroom. Muslims come to attend services on Friday and Islamic holidays.
Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Stone House)
The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Shengxin Cathedral) is located on Middle Yide Road. This famous Catholic church in Guangzhou is the largest Gothic building of stone with double painted towers. Its construction began in 1863 during the Qing Dynasty. It is also known as Stone House by locals because the main part of the building is laid with blocks of granite. The lofty tower, the giant spire, arched roof and laced windows present an exotic sight in Guangzhou.