China Attractions: Bamboo Temple, Qiongzhu Si
Qiongzhu Si 筇竹寺
A few kilometers northwest of Kunming, on the side of Jade Table Mountain above Dian Lake, lies the city's Bamboo Temple (Qiongzhu Si).
Despite the piety of its worshippers, it's not religious rituals that make the Bamboo Temple famous. As I wandered into the main hall, my eyes adjusting to the Stygian gloom, an astonishing tableau of surreal characters slowly revealed itself.
From the gory to the grotesque, angry to angelic, these incredibly lifelike creations are the work of 19th century sculptor Li Guangxiu and his assistants. Intended as a light-hearted depiction of monks who had attained nirvana, they took Li seven years to complete, and so offended his contemporaries that his career was finished soon after. Irreverent or not, this is certainly one temple visitors don't forget in a hurry.
Located 12 kilometers northwest of Kunming. Cheap minibuses (3 RMB) to the temple depart from Kunming railway station. Taxis are quicker and more reliable, costing around 40 RMB one way.