Picture an entirely Chinese tour group, a Chinese tour guide, and me, one lone American girl traveling 70 km outside of Beijing to reach the stunning Yunju temple. I had no idea what the day would hold for me, I just knew there would be a chance I might be taken out of the usual elements of my comfort zone. Fortunately, in that department, I was not disappointed! I do not have much China travel experience. Thus, when I decided to travel to Beijing I was seeking sights that offer a true portrait of Chinese culture. The tour of Yunju began with the retelling of its stone scripture history. This site is where the actual making of the first stone scripture tablet took place. The decision to carve on stone was to ensure its preservation because at the time there was conflict between the differing religious sectors. The scriptures include important texts known as the Tripitaka in various versions. To date, the Yunju temple houses over 14,000 stone scripture tablets! The tablets hold an extreme amount of religious, spiritual, intellectual and educational value. The multitude of tablets this temple houses makes Yunju temple a shrine to Buddhist culture. I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I was in the presence of a literary history with insurmountable important, not unlike the Rosetta Stone or Code of Hammurabi.

As I made my way through the temple grounds, my eyes feasted upon the nearly two-story bronze vessels, centuries old brick pagodas, and larger than life Buddhist deity statues. My tour then took a turn for the unexpected as I was handed a brown robe and told to put it on and make our way into the temple. I knew this wasn’t an average sightseeing stop for Beijing travel and enjoyed the feeling I was experiencing something unique. There I and my fellow Chinese travelers took part in a Buddhist ritual, involving incense sticks and the entrancing singing of monks. The women and men lined up on separate sides of the room and then repeatedly knelt down for prayer. I knew this was a once and a lifetime experience for me. The centerpiece of the room was a large golden Buddha who sat in front of a table adorned with flowers. Even though I am not a Buddhist, the strong spiritual connections being made within the room were so profound it made an cherished impression on me, adding much to my appreciation for Chinese culture. This Beijing tour should be made an essential addition to your trip. The day spent at Yunju is one I will never forget, and a definite favorite of the time I’ve spent in Beijing.

Jack Li

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