Western Hills is located in the west of Dianchi Lake, about 15km from Kunming city. They are a range of mountains including Biji Hill, Huating Hill, Taihua Hill, Luohan Hill, Guabang Hill and several other hills, stretching over 40 kilometers from north to south. Look from afar, they resemble a sleeping Buddha-hence the nickname, 'Sleeping Buddha Hills'. They are also called 'Sleeping Beauty Hills' for looking just like a young girl lying with her face to the sky and her long hair drifting into the water of Dianchi Lake. You even can distinguish her face, chest, and legs clearly.
The local people like to give you the creed: if you haven’t seen Western Hills, you haven’t seen Kunming. The Western Hills gains its great name for its lush vegetation, blooming flowers, green grass and tranquil surroundings. This site, spread out across a long wedge of parkland, is dotted with many temples and other cultural relics, such as Huating Temple, Taihua Temple, Sanqing Pavilion, and Dragon Gate.
Huating Temple is located in the mountains some 2050 meters high above sea level. Believed to have been constructed in the 11th century, it is one of the largest Buddhist temples in Yunnan Province. This temple is mainly composed of Daxiong Baodian Hall, Tianwang Hall and Kwan-yin Hall. In the temple, you will see colorful statues which are perfect combinations of the styles of Buddhism and Taoism. The solemnity of Buddhism and the freedom of Taoism blend into one. In addition, you can also see 500 life-like arhats and a large number of clay figures depicting vividly various images of mythical animals.
The road from Huating Temle stretches 2 kilometers from here up to Taihua Temple, Which is about 2500 meters above seal level on Taihua Hill. Firstly constructed in the Yuan Dynasty (1206 - 1368), it is the oldest temple in Western Hills and one of the most important birthplaces of Buddhist culture in Yunnan Province. The main buildings in the temple are Daxiong Baodian Hall, Piaomiao Pavilion, Sizhao Hall. With its ancient trees, perfumed orchids, camellias, osmanthus and plum trees, the temple is famous for its peace, tranquility and elegance.
Located on the cliff at Luohan Hill, Sanqing Pavilion was first built in the Yuan Dynasty as a Summer Palace for Lingwang King, the forth son of Kublai Khan; so Sanqing Temple is also nicknamed Liangwangge by the Kunmingites. Sanqing Pavilion is said to be the utmost fairy land in Daoism, where three main Taoist deities live (Sanqing refers to the highest level of T aoist ‘enlightenment’). Being over 300 meters (approximately 984 feet) above Dianchi Lake, the pavilion is a perfect place to take a bird’s eye view of Dianchi Lake and the temples around.
As a saying goes ‘If you haven’t seen Dragon Gate (Longmen Grottoes), you haven’t seen Western Hills.’ Located at 2300 meters above sea level, Dragon Gate is a group of grottoes, sculptures, corridors and pavilions hacked from the sharp cliff of the Western Hills. It took seven decades to complete, from 1781 to 1853 in the Qing Dynasty. The huge project was undertaken by stone craftsmen living at the foot of the Western Hills. Standing on the edge of the cliff, you will experience the steepness of the hill and enjoy the spectacle panoramic view of Dianchi Lake.
The 3rd of March every lunar year is a festive time in the Western Hills. It is the best time for Kunming residents to climb the mountains and look into the distance, to admire the spring flowers and appreciate the feeling of new life.