More correctly known as Zhenjue Si (Temple of True Awakening), the one ancient building remaining on this site is a massive stone block with magnificently preserved Indian Buddhist motifs carved out of the bare rock. Peacocks, elephants, and dharma wheels adorn the base, which is also decorated with sutras copied out in Sanskrit (the large script) and Tibetan (the small script). The central pagoda has an image of two feet, harking back to an age when artisans could only hint at the presence of Buddha through symbols. The circular pavilion was added by the Qianlong emperor to honor his mother, an act of architectural vandalism which ruined the original simplicity and symmetry of the pagoda. The surrounding courtyard is gradually filling up with stone tombstones, spirit-way figures, and stelae commemorating the construction or renovation of temples; most are refugees from construction and road-widening projects around the capital. The wonderfully curated Shike Yishu Bowuguan (Stone Carving Museum) is at the rear of the complex. Beijing Aquarium is a 15-minute walk to the northeast.
- © Frommer's 2013
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