Guǎngjì Sì 广济寺
Time was when monks would greet foreigners who wandered into this closed but active temple and take them to meet the hospitable, multilingual, and much-travelled abbot. Now there are open days twice a lunar month, but firmly no admission in between. One main courtyard and its substantial yellow-roofed hall can be visited, as well as a substantial library of sutras, some said to be written in blood. The temple was originally founded around 1800 years ago, but most of what’s now visible dates to after a fire in the 1930s and heavy restoration since. This is the headquarters of the Chinese Buddhism Association, and those looking for more knowledge will find answers here. This, and Fǎyuán Sì are the only two Běijīng temples retaining the authority to ordain Buddhist priests.
▶ Fùchéng Mén Nèi Dàjiē 25, t 6616 0907, open 1st and 15th days of lunar month. Free. m Xī Sì (Line 4). b to 西四路口西: 13, 42, 102电车, 603, 604, 623, 685.
If you’re wondering whether you’ll be passing on the right dates of the lunar calendar, try converting the Gregorian date here: www.hko.gov.hk/gts/time/conversion1_text.htm. Call ahead to make sure they haven’t switched to the Gregorian calendar after all.
The Temple of Ancient Monarchs is a short walk further west on the same (north) side of the road, past many shops selling signs and trophies. Get your name in giant characters.
For discussion of China travel, see The Oriental-List.