The hustle and bustle of Guangzhou is a rush; so when visitors need a breather, the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees is a popular respite. It's a large temple site with elegant grounds, classic Chinese architecture and the occasional monk strolling through. Originally dating back to the year 537, the temple was twice destroyed by fires; its latest incarnation was erected way back in 1373.
Since then, the original banyan trees for which the temple was named disappeared long ago. But the temple has maintained its sense of weathered history, carrying the feel of authenticity lacking in the "historic" reconstructions that modern China seems to love so much. The 55-meter-tall Hua Pagoda is the landmark of the site: it's well-preserved and beautiful to gaze upon from the ground, though its innards are equally mesmerizing. Hundreds of Buddhas note the exact moment that visitors break a sweat on their way to the top, and the final surrounding view is particularly enchanting on a clear day.
The other temple highlights are the three golden Buddhas in the Daxiong Baodian Hall. Forged in 1633, the six-meter-tall depictions of Sakyamuni, Amitabha and Maitreya weigh 10 tons each, easily the largest such Buddhas in the province. Other halls, the open grounds and the lovely gardens can easily occupy a couple of leisurely hours.
The temple is renowned for its harmonious environs, but it takes on a different flavor during the Chinese Lunar New Year. Thousands of visitors flock to the temple to burn their joss sticks and pray, and monks chant the hours away, striving to maintain their focus amongst the hubbub.
Six Banyan Trees Temple
Entrance Fee: 5 yuan, 10 yuan to climb Hua Pagoda.
Getting there: From Gongyuanqian subway station, walk five minutes from Exit B.