Yuantong Temple, located on the south side of Yuantong Hill, is the largest as well as the most important Buddhist temple in Yunnan Province. Originally built in the Tang Dynasty, the temple boasts a history of more than 1200 years. It has been refurbished many times during the Ming and Qing Dynasties to its present size and appearance.
Usually, Chinese Buddhist temples are built on an ascending slope. Different from them, visitors enter Yuantong Temple from above and descend along a gently sloping garden path. The halls of the temple are at the lowest point. Before getting into the temple, you will be impressed by the gigantic cypress trees standing along the path to the temple and the extensive array of flowers. On the halfway, you will see a memorial archway sculptured four Chinese charavters - Yuantong Shengjing (Yuantong Wonderland).
At the center of the temple complex is Yuantong Hall (Mahavira Hall). It was encircled by a very big pond, giving it a reputation as the Fane on the Water. From the temple entrance get to the Yuantong Hall, you need to walk across a stone bridge with a delicate octagonal pavilion in the center. The pavilion is furnished in an elegant manner and is invested with a tone of antiquity. The pavilion is connected to the rest of the complex by various bridges and walkways.
In the main hall of the temple, you will find Sakymuni, Amitabha, the Medicine Buddha and all Yuan Dynasty statues. The surrounding 500 Buddhist Arhats carved in the walls are also very attractive. They were carved in perfect proportions and have vivid expressions. Besides, you will be impressed by the two ten meter high pillars, which are entwined with two big dragons, carved with surpassing workmanship and showing a great vividness. They are trying to extend their bodies and claws into the air as if they are ready to fly. All of these will provide you a rare artistic pleasure.
Outside the main hall, you can climb up to the top of the hill along stone staircases which were hacked from the mountainside. Along the way, many ancient inscriptions and various stone artworks will be found. With a long history and unique appearances, they are regarded as Kunming’s most important cultural relics. Standing on the top of the hill, you will have a spectacular bird’s eye view of the whole temple complex. It is a perfect place for you to admire the magnificent architecture and picturesque surrounding landscapes.
In 1982, Yuantong Temple received a gift from Thai Buddhists – a copper statue of Sakymuni which is half meters high and four tons in weight. In 1985, a Copper Buddha Hall was built in a combination of Chinese and Tai styles to house the copper statue.
In the temple, you will also find other attractions, such as a pool reserved for setting captive fish free, a magnificent calligraphy studio, and an exhibit of temple photographs taken at the end of the Qing Dynasty by Auguste de Francois and so on.
Yuantong Temple, with brilliant appearance, grand building complex and tranquil surroundings, has become one of the most important sites in the region for Buddhist ceremonies. And the Yunnan Provincial and city's Buddhism Commissions are based here. On the first and 15th of each lunar month, people gather here to take part in all kinds of Buddhist services. The temple is particularly crowded during the Tomb Sweeping Festival.