One of Taiyuan’s most tourist visited sights, the Jinci Temple (Jinci si), was popular for good reason. The temple is one of the most original and oldest in this region of northeastern China, and was recently listed as a state protected sight of cultural heritage. Unfortunately the state does little to protect the sight from tourist pollution.
Jinci is located 25km southwest of the city proper, at the foot of the large Xuanweng Mountain. It originally served as the ancestral temple for a prince in the Western Zhou Dynasty (1100-771 BC), although the modern temple was first built in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 AD).
The temple is basically divided into three parts, the north, the center and the south, and the whole is filled with halls (most noticeably the Goddess Mother Hall [Shengmu dian], the oldest wooden construction in the city), terraces (including the first that you will come across upon entering, the Ming Dynasty [1368-1644 AD] Mirror Terrace [Shui jing tai]), pavilions, corridors and bridges. The temple feels a little like the more impressive of the Suzhou gardens, especially with the streams that run through the complex, although the litter somewhat ruins this effect.
Most of the buildings here are from a variety of dynasties that span over a thousand years. Of all of the halls, the Goddess Mother Hall seems most interesting, dedicated as it is to the mother of the Zhou Dynasty (1100-221 BC) prince, Shuyu. Shuyu, founder of the Dynasty, was alleged to have magical powers, making him the possible cause of the almost 1,000 year old cypress tree that you can find next to the temple, bowing down at an unnaturally low angle. Within the hall stand statues of 42 maids who circle a statue of the hall’s lady.
How to get there: From in front of the railway station, take bus No.8 (RMB2). The journey should take about 45 minutes.
Opening hours: 08:00-17:00.