The Hongluo (Red Snail) Temple on Hongluo Mountain, about 55 kilometers from downtown Beijing, has been revered for centuries as the most efficient place in the capital by those who pray for true love and a happy marriage.
To the west of the temple is a spring which, according to legend, once housed a pair of giant red snails. They hid during the day and went out at night.
When mist covered the mountain forest at dusk, the snails spewed bright red flames to illuminate the entire mountain, which could be seen for 100 miles. Thus, the temple and the mountain earned their name as “Red Snail”.
After their deaths, the couple were buried in the temple and the locals built two pagodas to commemorate the mythical creatures.
Hongluo Temple was originally built during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), renovated in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), and extensively landscaped and refurnished in 1694 when Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty (1644 -1911) made a short stay at the temple.
After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the place was used as a college for teachers.
The renovation and preservation project began after the school was moved elsewhere in the early 1990s. Today the temple is a holy place for Buddhist pilgrimages.
Two hundred-year-old pagoda trees, about 2,000 years old, stand on either side of the front door, like two soldiers guarding the temple.
The entrance hall is the shrine of Maitreya Buddha, protected by four heavenly kings. The main hall, or Big Buddha Hall, features delicate carvings on bold red doors and window frames.
Sakyamuni sits in the middle, with a golden bird atop his head. Maitreya (Future Buddha) and Bhaishajyaguru (Medicine Buddha) are waiting on either side of him. Eighteen arhats with various postures are the guardians of the three Buddhas.
A large bronze bell, dating back more than 370 years, is one of the relics kept in the main hall. The bell was awarded in 1626 by Emperor Xizong of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
The back hallway is a meditation room where monks can read and chant sutras.
A pergola, clad in purple wisteria, supported by 30 wooden posts, connects the main and rear halls. The flowered parasol, covering approximately 300 square meters, provides a refreshing and refreshing open space in summer.
As the cradle of Buddhist culture in northern China, Hongluo Temple has been a sacred place of Buddhism for centuries through a series of successive dynasties, and it has also functioned as a training school to educate abbots and the master monks not only from China, but also from Japan and Southeast Asian countries.
In order to accommodate visiting monks, a group of small monasteries were built in the valley to the west of the temple.
During the reign of Jiaqing (1796-1820), Master Jixing, then abbot of the temple, rented the land from neighboring farmers. The money he collected was used to provide free meals for the poor and take care of orphans. He even created a hospital and a pharmacy for the poor and the destitute.
The temple got a makeover in the Qing Dynasty when it became a spiritual getaway for the royal family.
In 1694, when Emperor Kangxi came to worship, a lush bamboo forest in front of the temple amazed him. The emperor ordered it to be protected, and today, after three centuries, the forest has over a million bamboo trees, a must-see for visitors.
At the end of the Qing Dynasty, Empress Dowager Cixi also marveled at the bamboo forest and wisteria pergola during her visit to the temple. She climbed to the top of nearby Qinglong Mountain to get a bird’s eye view of the entire resort.
Before her departure, she wrote two characters “Fu” (fortune) and “Shou” (longevity), hoping that her dynasty would be blessed and live long. Today’s inscriptions are hung high in the east guest room.
The Empress also bestowed a lotus lamp on the temple, which is on display in the main hall, right in front of the statue of Sakyamuni.