24 Wutasi Cun, on Changhe River
HOURS: Tues.-Sun. 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
METRO: National Library (Line 4)
Different from the traditional Beijing temple architecture that characterizes many of the capital’s places of worship, the style of the Five Pagodas Temple (Wuta Si) follows Southeast Asian models and looks more Indian or Thai than Chinese. It used to sit far out in the western suburbs until the city encroached and included the temple in its spread.
Built in the diamond throne style, or vajrasana, the Ming-era temple was finished in 1473 using plans drawn up by an Indian monk who donated five golden Buddha statues to the emperor. Its bluestone bricks and five towers give it an exotic air with a central pagoda surrounded by four smaller versions. Each of the pagodas is richly decorated with Buddha figures, Sanskrit verses, and bodhi trees; together, the five pagodas represent the five “directions” of the Buddha.
The parkland around the temple is peaceful enough to make you forget you’re in a capital city. Check out the on-site Museum of Stone Carvings, which displays over 2,000 pieces of (you guessed it) carved stone.