Temples in Asia are architectural marvels that exude a sense of serenity and harmony. Whether you visit a Buddhist temple, a Japanese shrine or a Hindu temple, you will be fascinated by the legends, the intricate design and the sublime views. Find your inner peace at these incredible temples - as they inspire you to head east to Asia this winter.
Liuhe Pagoda, Zhejiang, China
Liuhe pagoda or Six Harmonies pagoda was built in 1200 and underwent renovations in 1900. Located in Hangzhou, China, the temple’s pavilion-style tower gives travellers an astonishing view of the Qiantang River and the bridge connected to it as well as a 360 degree view of the entire city. Inside, you’ll find seven floors covered in hand carved wood, paintings, and written poems hanging on the walls from the dynasties that had lived before. The most popular time to visit is in the fall, when the river's water rises, having the best view from the top of the pagoda.
Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang, Malaysia
Known to be one of the largest temple complexes in Southeast Asia, Kek Lok Si also fondly known as The Temple of Supreme Bliss. Located at Air Itam mountain in George Town, the temple was built to face toward the sea and serve as a house of worship since 1903. Along with the main temple there are many of buildings and sights to explore such as the Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas, Amitabha Cloister, and the Ordinance Hall.
In front of the Ordinance hall is a miniature 7 story pagoda that sits in the main courtyard; this is the first sight you see as you enter the complex. Don’t miss the hundreds of tortoise in the Tortoise Liberation Pond. A lovely time to travel here is for the Chinese New Year celebrations when you’ll see the temple prettily lit up with thousands of bright lanterns.
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, Mon State, Myanmar
The legend of Kyaiktiyo Pagoda or Golden Rock, perched on the edge of the 1100-metre high Mount Kyaiktiyo, tells of a hermit who placed a hair of Buddha below the rock to ensure its stability. The gravity-defying boulder is said to be over two thousand years old and from November to May, many worshippers make their way to Mon State. It is said that during these months, chants can be heard from the mountaintop. The location of the gilded pagoda on the rock also offers an incredible panoramic view of the Mon State mountains.
If you travel here towards the end of the year, check out the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda Festival (also known as the Nine Thousand Lights Festival). When the moon is full, the platform of the pagoda is lit with 9,000 candles and devotees shower Buddha with fruits, foods and incense.
Srirangam Temple, Tamil Nadu, India
Located on an islet formed by the rivers Cauvery and Coleroon, this Vishnu temple is an intricately designed architectural marvel. It is thought of as the first and the most important of the 108 main Vishnu temples. Legend has it that the idol (known as Sri Ranganatha) was being transported from India to Sri Lanka by a sage. Along the way, the sage took a break, setting the idol down on the ground for a moment. As the sage tried to pick the idol up he could not move it, 100 hands could not move Sri Ranganatha from the ground. So the devoted men built a temple surrounding it.
Inside the main temple is the hall of 1000 pillars. The sprawling 156-acre complex has seven enclosures - the only temple in India to have seven - representing seven centres of Yoga, or seven elements that make up the human body, with the soul in the centre. These seven enclosures encompass 21 magnificent towers. Much to explore when you travel to this awe-inspiring temple.
Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto, Japan
Located in the southern part of Kyoto, the 'Golden Pavilion' or Kinkaku is a shining symbol of Kyoto. Converted into a temple of the Zen sect of Buddhism, the two top floors of the structure are painted in gold leaf. Originally built in the 14th Century, Kinkakuji is an impressive structure overlooking a large natural pond. Though it has burned down numerous times throughout its history, its recent renovations in the 1950s helped open it up to Buddhist devotees.
Each floor of the Kinkaku represents a different style of architecture. The first floor is built in the Shinden style used for palace buildings during the Heian Period, and with its natural wood pillars and white plaster walls it sits in contrast to the gilded upper floors.
The gardens beyond the temple hold some treasures of their own including the Anmintaku Pond that is said to never dry up, and statues that people throw coins at for luck.
Golden Temple, Amritsar, India
A must-visit in India, the Golden Temple with its gold covered exterior is a historic and cultural treasure that was built in the 1600s. Guru Arjan Sahib, the Fifth Nanak of the Sikh religion, conceived the idea of creating a central place of worship for the Sikhs and designed this temple. Built on a 67ft. square platform, standing in the centre of the Sarovar water reservoir, the Golden Temple is a 40.5ft. square structure. It has one door each on the East, West, North and South directions, signifying the importance of acceptance and openness. The bridge to the temple is connected with the 13 feet wide Pardakshna path. And its unique architecture represents a harmony between the Muslim and the Hindu architectural styles of that period in India.
The festival of Baisakhi, a spring harvest festival, is celebrated at the Golden Temple with an incredible feast. On this day, water is drawn from all the rivers of India and poured into the huge pool that surrounds the Golden Temple.
About the author
Heather Gursky loves to travel and visit unique destinations around the world! She writes about her adventures on Green Travel and Lifestyle magazine Ecophiles.
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If you have been inspired to travel to any of the temples featured in this article, then check out our India, Japan, China, Myanmar (Burma) and Malaysia pages. Our local experts are always happy to receive your enquiry and are ready and waiting to plan your perfect tailor-made holiday. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.