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There are tons of great day trips you can take out of the Spring City of Kunming. In addition to hiking up in the Western Hills, another excellent choice is combining a visit to the Golden Temple Park with a stop at the Botanical Gardens. With an early start, you can easily check out both in a day. Let’s explore the Golden Temple Park in this post.
This beautiful temple and park is located in the Mingfeng Mountains (鸣凤山 – míng fèng shān) – “Singing Phoenix Mountains” – just a few kilometers northeast of the city center. This copper-tiled Taoist temple is one of the largest in Yunnan province. It’s also known as the “Hall of Supreme Harmony” (太和宫 – tài hé gōng) or the “Copper Tile Temple” (铜瓦寺 – tóng wǎ sì).
The temple has a long history going all the way back to 1602 in the Ming Dynasty. As the legend goes, the temple was moved 35 years later to the foot of the Jizu Mountain in Western Yunnan. Sadly, it was destroyed a few decades later. In 1671 during the Qing Dynasty, the temple was rebuilt at its original site on the Mingfeng Mountains. Over the years it has suffered some damage and some of it has been rebuilt, but for the most part this is still the temple you see today.
As with many Taoist temples in China, you reach it by climbing up the side of a mountain and passing through a series of Heavenly Gates (天门 – tiān mén). The gates are beautifully decorated and painted, and are surrounded by trees and flowers.
Among the artifacts you can see at the temple is a double-edged sword that weighs over 20 kilograms. It’s said to be the magic sword of Zhen Wu, a Taoist deity. There’s also a flag with a picture of the sun and moon and the Chinese characters 天下太平 (tiān xià tài píng), meaning “all the world is at peace.”
In addition to the temple, there’s also a large Bell Tower (钟楼 – zhōng lóu) that houses a giant copper bell. Apparently it’s over 500 years old and weighs an astounding 14 tons. For a few kuai you can even ring the bell. Look out over the side and you’ll get some great views of the park and the city in the distance.
As is the case with just about every scenic area in China, you’ll find plenty of vendors selling snacks, random knick-knacks (who needs a Halloween mask at a Taoist temple?), and camels ready to pose for a photo. There are also lots of places where you can sit down and relax, making it a popular spot for locals to come hang out and play chess or cards.
On your way out of the park, you can check out a greenhouse to see a variety of cacti (仙人掌 – xiān rén zhǎng). The greenhouse is surrounded by flowers and has a nice little pond behind it, where you might catch a group of local musicians practicing in the shade.
The Golden Temple Park is a lovely, peaceful place to spend a few hours. Be sure to get there early so you can properly explore the entire grounds. After a little lunch, you’ll still have plenty of time to head to the next stop on our tour of Kunming day trips – the Botanical Gardens.