Bàoguó Sì 报国寺

15th-century backstreet temple home to ‘antiques’ and collectibles market
Part of A Better Guide to Beijing’s coverage of South of Qián Mén

A modern páilou clearly marks the entrance, with the temple set back behind it. The best approach is to walk south from m Cháng Chūn Jiē and take the unmarked third right turn (the second is 槐柏树街, Huáibǎishù Jiē), once the home of a small but lively bird and insect market. Turn left at the end, where there’s now a large public park, to walk down Bàoguó Sì Dōng Jiā Dào (包裹斯东夹道), wriggling east and south and eventually running along the outside of the east wall of the temple and round to the entrance at the south end. Apartments to the left on your way have caged songbirds singing cheerfully.

The temple was founded during the Khitan Mongol Liáo (辽) dynasty and renovated in 1466 and 1754. But by the end of the 18th century it had been largely abandoned and, anticipating 20th century treatment of such premises, had become a cloth-dyeing works (and it became a factory again after 1949).

In 1843–44 scholar-officials who deplored the Qīng’s defeat at the hands of the British in the First Opium War set up a shrine to a 17th-century scholar called Gù Yánwǔ (顾炎武), providing an excuse to meet frequently and discuss more political matters than literature. Perhaps even this tiny hint of rebellion is what helped the temple survive destruction in the communist era when others were being pulled down.

Like many other temples, by the early Qīng the Bàoguó Sì was renting out rooms and also holding markets on the 5th, 15th, and 25th days of the lunar month. Today the interest here is still mainly in the bric-à-brac market occupying its small courtyards and some of the halls. Foreigners are rarely seen here, and there’s a quiet purposeful modest bustle among stalls selling banknotes, ceramics, Cultural Revolution paraphernalia (probably fake), jade (certainly fake), books, coins, phone cards (collectors can bring items from home to trade or sell), teapots, carved wood items, papercuts and other crafts, old magazines, second-hand books, and more. Prices range from a few kuài up to ¥300,000 for a replica jade burial suit. The market is quieter on Mondays and Tuesdays, although still with plenty to see, picking up later during the week and busiest (and more expensive as a result) at weekends. While nowhere near as large as Pān Jiā Yuán, and with less varied merchandise it’s pleasantly located in a genuine temple, and, with few foreigners, has far lower starting prices.

▶ North side of Guǎng’ān Mén Nèi Dàjiē, t 6301 4828, 7.30am–4.30pm. Free. m Cháng Chūn Jiē (Line 2) exit D2; Guǎng’ān Mén Nèi (Line 7, opens 2014. b to 白广路北口 just south of the temple: 19, 40, 741.

Guǎng’ān Mén Nèi Dàjiē is directly south of the temple entrance. Left (east), left at lights at Cháng Chūn Jiē (长椿街), and a right fork at Xià Xiéjiē (下西街) will bring you to Cháng Chūn Sì. Or right at the lights down Niú Jiē (牛街) will bring you to the Ox Street Mosque. It’s also possible to walk west, cross the hùchéng hé (moat) and turn north towards the Tiānníng Sì Pagoda or south to the Ài Gē Lèyuán pigeon market.

Next in South of Qián Mén: Ox Street Mosque
Previous: Cháng Chūn Sì
Main Index of A Better Guide to Beijing.

For discussion of China travel, see The Oriental-List.