Yimouxun of the Nanzhao Kingdom built the temple during
the late eighth century as a continuation of Putuoluo
Temple, and the restorations to the temple performed
from the Qing Dynasty onward had not changed Yuantong
Temple's unique mixed architectural style of the Yuan
and Ming Dynasties.
Unlike all other Buddhist temples, which
are built on an ascendant, you enter Yuantong Temple
from above and descend along a gently sloping garden
path. The view before you starting your peaceful walk
beneath the gigantic cypress trees that line the garden
path to the temple with its extensive array of flowers
and foliage is deeply restful and impressive. A memorial
archway with four Chinese characters -Yuantong Shengjing
(Yuantong Wonderland)-is standing on the halfway; you
can see the entire temple from here.
The temple complex is built around Yuantong
Hall (Mahavira Hall), which is known as the Fane on
the Water for it is surrounded by a very large pond
filled with limpid water and fish. A delicate stone
bridge which has an elegant octagonal pavilion stands
in the center connects Mahavira Hall and the temple
entrance. The pavilion is connected to the rest of the
complex by various bridges and walkways.
Sakymuni, Amitabha and the Medicine Buddha,
all Yuan Dynasty statues, are found in the main hall.
The surrounding 500 Buddhist Arhats who are carved in
the walls are rare treasures noted for their perfect
proportions and lively appearances. Also in this temple
hall are two ten meter high pillars from the Ming Dynasty
that are each engraved with a dragon - one yellow and
one green - who are trying to extend their bodies and
claws into the air as if they are ready to fly. Like
the Arhats, they impart the feeling that at any moment
they could spring into action.
Outside, on each side of the main hall,
there are stone staircases that are carved out of the
mountainside and wind their way to the top of the hill.
As you climb these stairs, there are ancient inscriptions
along the way and various tone artworks that are considered
the most important historical relics in Kunming. From
the top of the stairs, you are presented with a terrific
panoramic view of the entire complex. It is from here
that you can most appreciate the architecture of the
remarkable temple complex.
In 1982, Thai Buddhists sent a copper statue
of Sakymuni to Yuantong Temple as a symbol of friendship,
and the statue is three and a half meters high and four
tons in weight. A few years later, in 1985, a Copper
Buddha Hall was built in a combination of Chinese and
Tai styles to house this exquisite gift.
Surrounding the temple pond are a series
of halls where you will find old women praying, people
sitting and chatting, ongoing classes in Buddhist scriptures,
a magnificent calligraphy studio, an exhibit of temple
photographs taken at the end of the Qing Dynasty by
Auguste de Francois, a temple shop, a restaurant, and
Yuantong Temple is a working temple that
also represents the Buddhism of China today. Along with
the patronage of the local people of Kunming and Yunnan
in general, Buddhists from around the world come here
on pilgrimages to pay homage, there are special Buddhist
services two times each month, and the Buddhist Association
of Yunnan Province is located here. Yuantong Temple
plays a very important role in history and in the modern