Located on the top of Mingfeng (Singing Phoenix) Hill, about 15 kilometers from the east Kunming urban area, the Golden Temple is the most famous Taoist shrine in Yunnan Province. It is also known as Taihe Palace (Hall of Supreme Harmony) or Tongwa Temple (Bronze Tile Temple). The temple was built from bronze and it is the largest bronze temple in China.
The Golden Temple was first built in 1602 during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). In that period, the governor of Yunnan Province - Chen Yongbing was a devout Taoist. To honor the Taoist hero-god Zishi, he decided to build a temple imitating the design of the Taihe Palace in Wudang Mountain in Hubei Province - the home of Daoism. As the legend goes, Zishi had a golden palace in the northernmost extremity of the universe. Because of some political reasons, in 1637, the temple was moved to Jizu Mountains in the west of Yunnan Province, leaving the foundation bed and railings. Three decades later in 1671 during the Qing Dynasty, an exact duplicate of the original Golden Temple was built under the order of Wu Sangui, the governor of Yunnan Province. Afterwards, the temple completely stood there for almost two hundred years. Unfortunately, it suffered some damages in 1857 during the period of the Muslim rebellion. In 1890, the temple was repaired, using 250 tons (246 gross ton) of solid bronze. Then it has been well kept until today.
The Golden Temple, 6.7 meters in height and 7.8 meters in width, and cast of 250 tons of solid bronze boasts the largest bronze hall in China. Except for the staircases and balustrades, which are made of marble, the walls, columns, rafters, roof tiles, altars, Buddha statues, wall decorations and the banner near the gate tower are all made of bronze. Under the shining sun, the burnished bronze gleams like gold; hence the people give the temple its name.
If you have visited Taoist temples, you will usually find that you need to climb hundreds of winding stone steps on the mountainside and go through a series of “Heavenly Gates", then you get into the temples. Similarly, before approaching the Golden Temple, you will climb the stone steps which are surrounded by stunning scenery. The three Heavenly Gates was well-decorated with painted archivolts and carved beams and rafters. The closer you get to it, the more peaceful and lighthearted you feel. Then you will indulge yourself in the beauty and peace of Mingfeng Hill and have a sense of inner harmony.
At the end of the path, you will see a miniature, medieval city wall and the Lingxing Gate through which you could enter the temple. Inside the Golden Temple, a large number of historical objects can be found. Among these objects is a double-edged sword with the Big Dipper engraved on it. Legend has it that the 20-kilogram (44 pounds) sword is the magic sword of a Taoist deity named Zhen Wu, who guards Mingfeng Hill. Another 12-kilogram (about 24.5 pounds) broadsword with a wooden handle is believed to be the saber of Wu Sangui.
Near the temple, there are a camellia tree and a lagerstriemia indica tree, which are 600 years old. Every February, they give hundreds of exquisite blossoms, signaling the approach of spring and adding more energy to the quiet temple.
Behind the Golden Temple, there is a three-story-high Bell Tower called “The Great Bell of the Ming Yongle Era”. It was built in 1984 to house a large, 580-year-old copper bell which weighs 140 tons, is three point five meters (16.4 feet) high and 6.7 meters long. Cast in 1424 during Yongle era, the bell was used as a timekeeping device for the public in Xuanhua Mansion in Kunming, but later moved to the Golden Temple.
The hillside around the Golden Temple abounds with pine trees, evergreens, hardy cypresses, and a multitude of plants. As far back as the Qing Dynasty, Mingfeng Hill has earned a reputation as the Fairyland of Mingfeng for its natural beauty.