One of the largest and oldest active Taoist temples in China is situated in west Beijing, known as the “White Cloud Temple” or “Bai Yun Guan” in Chinese. Its importance is reflected in that fact that it is home to the office of Taoist Association of China and one of “The Three Great Ancestral Courts” of the Complete Perfection Sect of Taoism, as well as being known as “The First Temple under Heaven”.

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Having been brought up on mainly a diet of western/Christian philosophy I wasn’t entirely clear about the differences between Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Apparently they are similar to each other, using basically the same literature, or scripture, and having the same goal with a different approach…

“Buddhists have a psychological approach that is interested in changing human perception by being more separate; by going deep within themselves and detaching from the physical world. Confucians are rational and Taoists focus on an intuitive approach. They all strive to reach unification with Tao/Brahman.”

So there you have it in a nutshell! Perhaps this accounts for the similarities which could be seen between here and the Lama Temple which I visited last month, certainly in architecture at least.

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It was nice to visit somewhere which wasn’t horribly crowded for a change and the atmosphere was very relaxed and peaceful – probably as it’s not on the main tourist trail and a little outside the city centre (see map).

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The temple consists of six courtyards alone its main axis surrounded by a number of halls, towers, and pagodas which are dedicated to various Taoist deities, such as the Jade Emperor and the Three Purities, Qiu Changchun and the Eight Immortals (whoever they are!). Next to the entrance there is also a small bridge underneath which are hung a pair of bells that people throw coins at supposedly for good luck.

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Although not as impressive as some of Beijing’s other attractions, if you have a spare few hours this is definitely worth a visit on a lazy afternoon. More photos here.

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