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Visiting Chongqing’s Luohan Temple

chinese temple candles

Images shot with F.Zuiko 38mm f1.8

I’ve noticed a theme emerging.

It doesn’t matter where I travel anymore.

As long as there’s a temple, I’ll be going to visit it.

And when I looked at a list of things to do in Chongqing, this one caught my eye.

Nestled in the midst of a whole mess of skyscrapers and building sites, Chongqing’s Luohan Temple is an escape and an oasis of tranquility in one of China’s most populous, noisiest, and polluted cities.

That alone makes it worth visiting if you’re ever in the neighbourhood.

Which you might be.

You never know.

luohan temple chongqing

chongqing luohan temple

Luohan is the Chinese word for arhat, the Sanskrit word for a person who has achieved enlightenment, and the temple is named after the 500 clay figures of arhats found in one of the halls.

I went in to see them. I’d heard they were a bit strange.

And they were.

Or rather, being in amongst them in the dimly lit hall was.

The figures were sat above eye level, lining the narrow maze-like walkways that led around the room. Each one was different. But some of them were very different.

I think I remember one had a load of smaller versions of himself crawling all over him. Another had 8 or 10 eyes, while another still was ripping his own chest open. Others just seemed to be laughing at you as you walked past, or mocking, or talking about you to the one next to them.

You walk in, and then you walk around the hall, not knowing exactly how to get out, with the hundreds of pairs of eyes from a collection of the strangest characters you’ve ever seen following you around from above.

It was a little disorientating.

As I said; if you’re ever in the neighbourhood, check it out.

Following my personal rule of not taking photographs in temples though, I don’t actually have any pictures of them.

Google images does. But they don’t and can’t do justice to being in there.

You’re just going to have to go yourself.

Chongqing’s Luohan Temple

A very little bit of history.

Chongqing’s Luohan Temple was first built around 1000 years ago. It was then remodelled in 1752. And then rebuilt in 1945.

Told you.

A small community of monks are still active in the temple, and there was a definite feel of it being more than (just) a tourist attraction.

I guess the calligraphy is being done with a view to being sold, though.

gold buddha luohan temple

The photographs I did take at Chongqing’s Luohan Temple are a bit less dramatic than the experience in the hall with the 500 clay arhats that I wish I could show you.

There is that big, gold effect Buddha up there though.

And a big stone Buddha below.

Plus some red ribbons and candles and more ribbons.

And one of those Chinese stone dogs.

It’s all good, though.

We’re at an oasis of tranquility, remember?

buddha statue luohan temple

temple steps

luohan temple candles

red buddhist ribbons

chinese temple lion

Grr.

I think it’s time to wrap this up.

Picture the scene:

You’re going to visit Chongqing.

You look at a list of things to do in Chongqing.

You see the Luohan Temple.

Should you add it to your list?

I’m going to say yes.

For the 500 strange clay arhats that I didn’t take any pictures of, yes.

And once more for luck.

Yes, you should.

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Chongqing's Luohan Temple is probably best known for the 500 clay arhat figurines from which the complex takes its name. It's also a calm oasis in the middle of one of China's most populous cities. While not the most photogenic temple I've ever been to, it's certainly worth a visit, should you ever find yourself in the neighbourhood. Which I would recommend you try to make happen, as Chongqing was a pretty cool place to visit in its own right.

 

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