On Friday 22nd we visited the temple "Zhihua", located at the eastern entrance of Lumican Hutong, a densely inhabited ancient lane in Dongcheng District.
Zhihua Temple was built in 1443. It was originally a family temple built by eunuch Wang Zhen, who was in charge of protocol, of the Ming Dyinasty.
It is, for Chinese measure, a relatively small temple. During our visit it was very quiet and serene, not many other visitors.
We had the opportunity to learn about the history of this temple and listen to Chinese ancient musical instruments. According to the guide, "The Zhihua Temple's Jing Music" used to be the folk music played in the Beijing region in the Ming and Qing dynasties. It has been passed down to the 27th generation since being introduced from the imperial court into the Zhihua Temple more than 500 years ago.
The performances are at 10am and 3pm and usually last 15 minutes in front of the Buddha statues in Zhihua Hall, the principal building of the temple.
The architecture is of the Ming dynasty. There are four courtyards and a well-preserved wooden complex with a beam frame structure and ceiling paintings in a typically Ming style. The Zhihua Temple was listed as a national key cultural relic's protection unit by the State Council early in 1961.
Hidden in the back of the Zhihua Hall is a splendid mural painting from the Ming Dynasty, named "Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and ten kings in the Hell" (地藏菩萨与十府冥王). The Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, who sits in the middle, looks at whoever is standing before her with great benevolence. Only she has witnessed the vicissitudes of the temple.
It may be the largest group of buildings with Ming-style architecture in downtown Beijing, but Zhihua Temple is much more than the sum of its physical parts. The Buddha statues, mural paintings and especially the traditional Jing music inside, make it not only an item of national intangible cultural heritage, but a hidden gem in the Hutongs, a tranquil space to relax in peace.
The entrance ticket price is 20RMB.