The Golden Temple, situated on Mingfeng Hill (the Hill of Singing Phoenixes), also called Yingwu Hill (the Parrot HilT) in the northeastern outskirts of Kunming, 7 kilometres away from the downtown area, is also known as Taihe Palace (the Hall of Supreme Harmony) and Tongwa Temple (the Bronze Tile Temple). The building is cast entirely in bronze weighing about 250 tons. The hills around the temple abound in evergreen pines and hardy cypresses, adding beauty to the superb scenery. This scenic wonderland, surrounded by verdant hills and enveloped by mists can be seen dimly from a distance. By the Qing Dynasty, the place had been acclaimed as the Fairyland of Mingfeng.
The Golden Temple is a Daoist temple. According to legends, during the reign of Wanli in the Ming Dynasty, Chen Yongbin, the then governor of Yunnan, believed in Daoism. One day he dreamed about the immortal Lu Dongbin making an appointment with him to meet each other at the foot of Yingwushan Hill the next day. Shortly after the rooster crowed the next morning, Chen Yongbin stood there waiting, only to find an old herdsman leading a sheep with a rope and cooking taros down the hillside in an earthen pot with another pot as the lid. As he took a step forward to have a closer look, the old man disappeared all of a sudden and so did the rope-tied sheep. It suddenly dawned on Chen Yongbin that the two pots put together shaped like the Chinese character "Lu", alluding to the family name of the immortal. Besides, the character for rope is homonymous to the character for purity and the character for sheep is homonymous to the character for purity and the character for sheep is homonymous to the character for the yang. The immortal Lu Dongbin also styled himself as the Pure Yang. It was obvious that Lu was intentionally indicating to him that the scenery of Yingwu Hill was wonderful and that it was as good as an earthly paradise. Thereupon Chen Yongbin began to recruit workers to build an ideal temple here in the thirteenth year of the reign of Wanli (1602). As a result, the Memorial Hall of Immortal Lu, Taihegoing and Sangyuan Palace were constructed after the architectural style of Taihe Temple at the middle peak of the seventy two peaks of Wudang Mountains in Hubei Province. Since then this wonderland has become a famous Daoist shrine in Yunnan.
From the foot of Mingfeng Hill to Taihe Palace, one goes up along the winding path of stone steps in the shade of pines and passes through the First Heavenly Gate, the Second Heavenly Gate and the Third Heavenly Gate. All the gates are decorated with archivolts, carved beams, painted rafters and vermillion designs, which give an air of majesty and impressiveness. These constructions are typical of the serene, solemn architectural style of Daoist temples. On the red walls outside the gate of Taihe Palace are written four big Chinese characters "ying wu chun shen" (spring is very much in the air on Yingwushan), which were written in the Ming Dynasty and have been well preserved. With vigorous, smooth and beautiful strokes, these four characters have been honoured as a calligraphic treasure. The moment one steps into the gate of the temple, one is attracted by the imposing Lingxing Gate with upturned eaves and archivolts. In the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the three schools of thought, namely, Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism merged into one and became prevalent in Yunnan. Thus Lingxing Gate of the Confucian temple was introduced into the Daoist temple.
Walking straight northeastward through Lingxing Gate, one sees a small and exquisite Forbidden City of blue bricks, in which stands the Hall of the Polar Star, supported by a marble platform and steps. This is none other than the Golden Temple made of bronze. The beams, pillars, tiles, window frames, 36 lattice doors, altars, figurines, dhvajas (pillars with Buddhist inscriptions), inscribed boards and incense burners aH these are entirely made of bronze produced in Yunnan. The hall is 6.7 metres high, 7.8 metres wide and weighs 250 tons. Regarded as one of the biggest bronze temples in China, the Golden Temple fully demonstrates the consummate smelting technique in Yunnan more than three hundred years ago.
The original Golden Temple was built in 1602 in the Ming Dynasty. In the tenth year of the reign of Emperor Chongzhen in the Ming Dynasty (1637), Governor Zhang Genghe moved the Golden Temple tojinding Monastery on Jizushan Mountain in Binchuan County, a sacred shrine of Buddhism. The present temple was built by Wu Sangui in the early Qing Dynasty (1671). In front of the Golden Temple is a big ancient bronze pot and a post with a bronze flag engraved with the design of the sun, the moon, the polar star and the Big Dipper. The hollowed-out patterns of the sun and the moon are standing on the upper part of the flag. Between the sun and the moon are engraved four big Chinese characters "tian xia tai ping" (Peace reigns over the world). On the streamer of the flag are carved eight Chinese characters "feng tiao yu shan guo tai mm an" (Timely winds and favorable rains; prosperous nation and contented people). When tourists stand here enjoying such a wonderful sight, they cannot help feeling fascinated as if they were standing in an ancient castle surrounded by towering walls, with the flags fluttering in the wind and the military prowess of the soldiers greatly boosted.
In the Golden Temple is still preserved a double-edged sword with the pattern of the Big Dipper on it, which weighs more than 20 kilograms and is thought to be a magic weapon used by Zhen Wu, a Daoist deity, to guard the hill. A broadsword with a wooden handle that weighs 12 kilograms is also kept there, which is said to have been once used by Wu Sangui. Beside the Second Heavenly Gate stands a tablet erected in March 1845 during the reign of Emperor Daoguang of the Qing Dynasty. The inscriptions on the tablet are records of the earthquake that happened in Yunnan during the reign of Qian long in the Qing Dynasty, thus providing valuable information for a further study of the history of earthquakes in Kunming.
On both sides of Zhenwu Hall are Huancui Chamber and Xiaqi Hall, in which paintings and calligraphy as well as potted landscapes are on display. Such exquisite, peaceful and delighiful surroundings are ideal for tourists to have a rest.
Outside the western gate of the "Forbidden City" grows a came ilia tree by the name of "butterflies' wings" planted in the Ming Dynasty. Being a famous camellia in Yunnan, this tree is about 7 metres high and five to six hundred years old. During the Spring Festival, thousands of camellia flowers burst into full bloom, yying with one another in splendour. The whole tree is radiant and riotous with flaming camellia flowers. "All flowers are contending to open to bloom with vigour and impatience in defiance of the cold of early spring. Camellias are superb, dwarfing any other flowers. Thousands upon thousands of flowers run riot in a blaze on the crowns of the trees. Against the melting snow the beauty of the flowers sets the sky in a boisterous glow of crimson. I am delighted at the eye feast and drunk with the beauty of nature here". This is a poem written by Dan Dang (a monk and poet as well as an outstanding painter of Yunnan in the early Qing Dynasty) entitled "Camellia", singing praises of the flowers.
At the top of Mingfengshan Hill stands a three-storey belfry, 29 metres high and in the form of a cross. Twelve protruding eaves are designed for each floor to strengthen the belfry. The 36 protruding eaves look like a group of singing phoenixes ready to fly. Below the vault of the belfry hangs a bronze bell cast in 1423 during the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty, 3.5 metres in height, 6.7 metres in circumference around the mouth and 14 tons in weight, the biggest of its kind in Kunming.
Originally the bell was hung in Xuanhua Tower in the southern city gate of Kunming, but it was moved several times over the years. In 1953, it had to be moved into Guzhuang Park outside Zhuangyuan Tower, for Xuanhua Tower was to be demolished. And finally the bell was moved to the Golden Temple in 1983.
A legend about the bronze bell runs that during the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty, the local people tried to cast a bell, but each time they failed. It was not until an immortal came to their assistance that they succeeded in casting the bell. But the bell was too heavy for human beings to lift and hang in Xuanhua Tower. Seeing this, the immortal made a rope with shavings and sawdust and hung it up. This done, he was now ready to take his leave. As he was on the point of leaving, the immortal said to the bell striker: "Don't strike it until I am one hundred li away, three days later". It was scarcely two days before the bell striker became too impatient to wait any longer, for he was eager to know how loud the bell would sound. So he began to strike the bell without taking heed of what the immortal had said. Hardly had the immortal covered 40 li when he heard the peal. As a result, the peal could not be heard beyond 40 li. According to the records of the local annals, the befl was at first used to tell the correct time and later to give an alarm.
In the south of the belfry is the Kunming Arboretum covering an area of 500 mu, divided into 12 sections, namely, the Camellia, Magnolia, Rose, Azalea, Primrose, Bamboo, Aquatic Plant, Snow Pine Lawn, Highland Barley, Hothouse Arboretum is adjacent to the Golden Temple. With a combination of magnificent scenery and scenic spots, Mingfengshan Hill is bound to become a favoured tourist resort in Kunming