a flight to kunming & an afternoon at yuantong temple

Thursday, February 12:  At mid-morning, we have a flight from Dali to Kunming that is delayed by nearly an hour.  So far, of all the flights we’ve taken in China, it’s the norm that the plane has departed late, at least by a half-hour.  Of course, any delay is frustrating, as airports are notoriously boring.  The small Dali airport is especially so.

At Dali Airport waiting for our flight to Kunming

At Dali Airport waiting for our flight to Kunming

Inspired by the multitudes of Chinese selfies: Alex & me on the plane to Kunming

Inspired by the multitudes of Chinese selfies: Alex & me on the plane to Kunming

Finally, we take off for our one hour flight, but by the time we arrive in Kunming to the Kai Wah Plaza Hotel, it’s well after lunchtime.  We enjoy a meal in a huge banquet room where we’re the only customers.

Our hotel in Kunming, Kai Wah Plaza

Our hotel in Kunming, Kai Wah Plaza

Soon after lunch, we take a taxi to the fabulous Yuantong Temple.  This temple is considered to be Yunnan’s grandest and most important Buddhist site.  While most Buddhist temples are built on a hill, you enter Yuantong Temple from above and descend along a gently sloping garden path. Giant cypress trees, flowers and tropical foliage line the garden path to the temple making for peaceful yet impressive entry.

Entrance gate to Yuantong Si

Entrance gate to Yuantong Si

King Yimouxun of the Nanzhao Kingdom built the temple during the late 8th and early 9th century during the Tang Dynasty, and the restorations  performed from the Qing Dynasty onward have not changed its unique mixed architectural style of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties.

Yuantong Si

Yuantong Si

It’s notable that this temple sits right in the midst of Kunming and so is a surprisingly quiet oasis in the center of a Chinese city’s normal bustle and chaos.

Under the eaves at Yuangtong Si

Under the eaves at Yuangtong Si

Yuantong Si

Yuantong Si

 a riot of color under the eaves

a riot of color under the eaves

Inside Yuangtong Si

Inside Yuangtong Si

Colorful eaves

Colorful eaves

Jolly fellow

Jolly fellow

Alex mimes the Buddhist figure

Alex mimes the Buddhist figure

Buddhist figure at Yuangtong Temple

Buddhist figure at Yuangtong Temple

The temple complex is built around Yuantong Hall (Mahavira Hall), which is known as the “Fane on the Water” for it is surrounded by a large pond. A stone bridge, upon which sits an elegant octagonal pavilion, connects Mahavira Hall and the temple entrance. The pavilion is connected to the rest of the complex by various bridges and walkways.  This structure of a Buddhist hall surrounded by water is unique in China.

Yuangtong Temple

Yuangtong Temple

Yuangtong Temple

Yuangtong Temple

Yuangtong Temple

Yuangtong Temple

pretty bridge at Yuangtong Temple

pretty bridge at Yuangtong Temple

Details at Yuangtong Temple

Details at Yuangtong Temple

Yuangtong Temple

Yuangtong Temple

Yuangtong Temple

Yuangtong Temple

Yuantong Temple

Yuantong Temple

The temple is an active site of pilgrimage.  Along with the patronage of the local people of Kunming and Yunnan in general, Buddhists from around the world come here to pay homage, there are special Buddhist services two times each month, and the Buddhist Association of Yunnan Province is located here.

Eaves at Yuangtong Temple

Eaves at Yuangtong Temple

The main hall at Yuangtong Temple

The main hall at Yuangtong Temple

Bridge over the pond and Yuangtong Temple

Bridge over the pond and Yuangtong Temple

The octagonal pavilion sitting atop the stone bridge over the central pond is dedicated to the multi-armed Guanyin and white marble Sakyamuni.

the octagonal pavilion in the center is dedicated to a multi-armed Guanyin

the octagonal pavilion in the center is dedicated to a multi-armed Guanyin

a white marble Sakyamuni in the octagonal pavilion

a white marble Sakyamuni in the octagonal pavilion

Main Hall at Yuangtong Temple

Me in front of the Main Hall at Yuangtong Temple

According to Travel China Guide: Yuantong Temple: Sakyamuni, Amitabha and the Medicine Buddha, all Yuan Dynasty statues, are found in the main hall. The surrounding 500 Buddhist Arhats who are carved in the walls are rare treasures noted for their perfect proportions and lively appearances. Also in this hall are two ten meter high pillars from the Ming Dynasty that are each engraved with a dragon.  Their bodies and claws are extended into the air as if they are ready to fly.

Faded frescos on the back wall of the main hall were painted in the 13th century.

In the main hall, two huge central pillars are wrapped in colorful dragons

In the main hall, two huge central pillars are wrapped in colorful dragons

Behind the main hall is a new annex with a graceful gilded bronze Buddha flanked by peacocks, donated by the Thai government.

the new annex in the back of Yuangtong Temple

the new annex in the back of Yuangtong Temple

curving rooftops on the annex

curving rooftops on the annex

multi-layered roof

multi-layered roof

Inside the annex

Inside the annex

curvature

curvature

Alex and the guards

Alex and the guards

guarding the annex

guarding the annex

Me & the guards

Me & the guards

a little pond filled with turtles and frogs

a little pond filled with turtles and frogs

colorful eaves

colorful eaves

Main Hall at Yuangtong Si

Main Hall at Yuangtong Si

Main gate through the tropical foliage

Main gate through the tropical foliage

The main gate to the temple

The main gate to the temple

incense sticks

incense sticks

After leaving this gorgeous temple, we go next door to a Bank of China, where I need to get $500 (USD) for my trip to Myanmar.  I’ve been told we should have crisp new large US dollars to exchange for the local Myanmar currency, the Myanmar Kyat, in order to get the best exchange rate.  Foreigners in China are only allowed to exchange yuan for a maximum of $500 USD each day.  I only had time before leaving Nanning to get about $500, plus Mike brought me $600 from home, as I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get crisp new large US bills from China.

After leaving the bank, it happens to be rush hour.  We cannot for the life of us find a taxi.  We wait and wait, trying to flag down numerous taxis, but they’re all occupied.  We decide if we walk to the major north-south road in Kunming, Beijing Lu, and walk about 10 blocks, we can eventually make our way back to our hotel, which is right on that street.  We walk and walk and walk and we’re getting exhausted from the hike.  Finally, we catch the eye of a three-wheeled taxi.  We show him the address of our hotel from my Chinese translation from Booking.com on my phone, and we’re off for an agreed 15 yuan.  Alex thinks it’s a real adventure as he’s never ridden on a contraption such as this before.

In the bar area of our hotel, we order two pizzas, Mexican and Vegetarian, and share them both.  We are too exhausted from our day of travel to do much else, so we relax in our hotel.  I get some night shots of Kunming from our hotel window.

Downtown Kunming at night from our room at Kai Wah Plaza

Downtown Kunming at night from our room at Kai Wah Plaza

Nighttime view of Kunming from our hotel window

Nighttime view of Kunming from our hotel window

In the morning, we’ll be heading to the Stone Forest in Shilin.  We know it will be a hassle as we have to go to the East Bus station to catch a bus, but little do we know how much of a hassle it will be.

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Categories: China, Dali, Kunming, Travel, Yuantong Si, Yuantong Temple, Yunnan Province | Tags: , , , , | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “a flight to kunming & an afternoon at yuantong temple

  1. I enjoyed seeing these pictures, Kat. It’s hard to type because my laptop keeps slipping from my knees. I usually stay in a hotel on Beijing Lu and within walking distance from Kunming’s main railway station.

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    • Thanks, Dai. Sorry about your laptop slip-sliding away. Yes, I know you’re very familiar with Kunming. One of the nicest big cities in China. 🙂

      Like

  2. WOW this temple is amazing, overwhelming, powerful! Shucks, it’s great!!

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  3. The intricacy of the designs in their buildings is just incredible. Chinatown in Portland, OR also has a large pond as its courtyard. So lovely, so serene.

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  4. What a city of contrasts!

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  5. The temple is amazing! All that color is dazzling, yet there’s something peaceful about it as well.

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  6. I was just thinking that this was one of your easier trips, Cathy. 🙂 It all does feel a bit wearing sometimes. (and I’m just sitting here reading!) Those curvy arches and the stone guardians are lovely and I do like the riot of colour.

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    • Comparatively speaking, Jo, our trip to Yunnan was one of my easier trips in China. I hate dealing with buses, and bus stations, and so this was probably the worst experience with bus transport here. I really loved this temple, especially that it sat on water, and I loved those dragons in the Main Hall. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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