Located 20 km east of Ningbo on the Asoka Mountain, the King Asoka Temple(Chinese:阿育王寺 ) is one of the most famous Zen Buddhist temples in China (and the world) because of its pagoda of Buddhist relics. The temple is over 1700 years old, and took its name from the Indian King Asoka (it’s the only one in China). The building is huge, covering 80,000 sq. m, and has over 600 halls and pavilions. The most famous part of the temple is the “Relic Hall” (舍利殿), which has golden glazed tiles adorning the roof. There is also a sculpture of something called the “Four Heavenly Guardians” and a brick carving of the “Sixteen Princes”. There are also a ton of other historical sites to visit in the area, including the Fodao Pavilion (佛道亭) and Buddha’s Footprint Rock (佛足迹巨石). It is quite nice and cool here during the summer too.
Located 25 km east of Ningbo on Taibai Mountain (one of Chinas “five Zen Buddhist Schools”) in the Tiantong Village, Tiantong Temple(Chinese: 天童寺) was built in 300 A.D. on the mountain surrounded by a thick forest full of tall trees and bamboo. Tiantong Temple, which was built along the side of the mountain range, takes up 45,000 sq. metres and originally has 999 rooms (apparently 730 or so are still standing) that can be seen as you climb up the patchwork stair sets in-between the pleasing asymmetrical complex. Tiantong Temple’s Zen Buddhism is widely known overseas, and is still quite popular in Japan and Southeast Asia today.
Address: Tiantong Village, Dongwu Town, Yinzhou District, Ningbo(Chinese 地址：宁波市鄞州区东吴镇天童村境内)
Price: 5 RMB
Operating hours: 06:00 – 16:00
Getting there: from the Chiche Dongzhan (汽车东站) ride the No. 362 bus there.
Although the Seven-Pagoda Temple(Chinese:七塔禅寺 ) is located in downtown Ningbo on Baizhang Street, and there are no “mountains” or “water” to speak up, it is still quite impressive looking on its own. The Seven-Pagoda Temple was built in 858 AD of the Tang Dynasty and the architecture of the structure is very typical of the other Zen Buddhist temples in Ningbo. The temple consists of Hall of Heavenly Kings, Grand Hall, Three-Sage Hall, Hall of the Abbot, Library of Sutras, Hall of Providence, Pavilion of Jade Buddha, Bell Tower, Drum Tower, Hall of Buddhist Rites, and the East and West Wing-rooms, and each place is full of beautiful Buddhist “memorabilia”. If you are planning a full day of Buddhist temple sightseeing in Ningbo, this is the perfect place to start before you venture outside of the city!
Ningbo is a city with a long history, and as such, there are a bunch of really cool ancient buildings to check out if you find yourself in the area for a few days. The city-proper has some interesting sights (see the first entry), but for the real “goods” you are going to have to travel out of the city a bit to find the small Zen Buddhist temples that are hidden in the surrounding mountains!
Baoguo Temple(Chinese: 报国寺) in the north part of the city is a good choice for the first day’s schedule. Take a taxi from Tianyige Library, a journey of about 25 minutes. The temple was originally built in the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220). The current grand hall was renovated in 1013. It is the largest wooden structure in China’s Jiangnan region. You won’t be able to find a single nail in the hall, which is 11.91 meters long by 13.35 meters wide, because it is put together with the traditional Chinese mortise-and-tenon technique, which reached one of its peaks of development here. Since the temple was renovated many times, it is like a live slide-show of Chinese architectural samples from the Han, Tang, Song, Ming and Qing dynasties and modern times. The green area around the temple is also a good place to catch some fresh air.
Located at the foot of Lingshan Mountain, Baoguo Temple is 15 kilometers away from downtown Ningbo. With more than 970 years of history, it is China’s oldest and most complete wooden structure south of the Yangtze River. On both sides, there are is bell and drum tower that connects to the other buildings. Baoguo Temple’s Grand Hall (大殿), in the history of Chinese architecture, holds much historical, artistic and scientific value. The Grand Hall’s construction is full of clever designs; it employs the use of girders, pillars, columns, and corbel brackets (brackets between crossbeams and columns) throughout. Most impressively, the hall was built without a single nail used. And all of the components fit so snuggly together that it can support the full weight of the 50-ton roof. With the beautiful location, the preservation of the ancient site and the expert craftsmanship of the Grand Hall, it is no wonder that Baoguo Temple is listed as a national cultural relic protected spot.
Address: Anshan Village, Hongtang Street, Jiangbei District, Ningbo(Chinese: 地址: 宁波市江北区洪塘街道鞍山村)
Opening hours: 8:00 – 16:00Price: 12 RMB
Transportation: ride the No. 332 or 338 bus directly there