Brian Salter's Blogs:
A Rare Temple – that Isn’t – in the Heart of Beijing


Pudu Temple is one of those places that is easily ignored in the hustle and bustle of the northern capital. There is scant mention of it on the internet, and being located down a side street, only the locals seem to know of its existence. But inside the grounds, the building – which is no longer used as a temple – is a rarity in Beijing, given that it maintains the architectural style of the Manchus.

The temple stands on the site of the God of the Northern Pole (of the Yuan Dynasty) and was later used as the site of the Hongqing Palace in the Ming Dynasty, which is when the present building was erected.

Pudu Temple was formerly named as the East Garden of the Imperial City (it being within spitting distance of the Forbidden City).

In the Ming dynasty, the main hall of Pudu Temple was actually part of the Imperial City. During the reign of Emperor Kangxi it was restructured into a temple. Originally it covered an area of 10,000 square metres, and in the early Qing Dynasty, it was the mansion of Duo Ergun, the prince regent.

The only principal building of Pudu Temple still standing is the nine-bay Ciji Hall, standing on a white marble Sumeru Seat, covered with open work of acanthus and lotus designs. There are 36 columns on the four sides. The three-eaved-roof of its veranda is covered with green glazed tiles with an edge of yellow glazed tiles. It was repaired and expanded in 1775 and the name of Pudu Temple was granted by Emperor Qianlong.

Since 1984, Pudu has been identified as a key cultural relic. The surrounding area has become a high-density residential district, and the hall was used for classrooms and warehouses of a school.

Nowadays it houses the Sanpin Art Gallery, which attracts few visitors to its exhibitions. The old side halls no longer exist.

Entry to the gallery is free (or it was when I went there) and you can pass an easy 15 minutes looking at the artwork on display.

Whether visitors go for the art, or simply to look at the building, I have no idea.

There’s a nice ceiling overhead in one of the galleries…

And some of the pictures on show when I was there were rather fetching (here’s Liu Do Air’s ‘White Moonlight’ with a cute looking leopard staring out from the canvas)…

I’m also rather taken with a tree-full of parrots (though I suspect this is totally down to the artist’s imagination, since parrots usually fly around in flocks).

Outside, a class in Taichi is just about to start…

… while a father shows his little boy the finer art of controlling a quadcopter, which comes perilously close on a couple of occasions to crashing into the roof.

No one seems to care overmuch. It’s a quiet and hot day. And at least the temple grounds had some visitors…

Pudu temple is on Nanchizi Street, Dongcheng District. Take a subway to Tian’anmen East and leave from exit B. Walk due east and then north up Chizi Nan Lu for 800 metres, then turn right for 50 metres. The temple is on your left.