Zhiyun Temple is as much a reflection of culture as the city of Lijiang itself. While the sacred space has many traditional elements, it also showcases the designs of Tibet and other inspiration taken from the local Naxi, Bai, and Han people of China. The temple stands over Lashi Lake, as clear as a mirror and just as reflective. Located about 30 minutes to the west of Lijiang, Zhiyun Temple feels secluded. It’s nestled within a large park renowned for its bird-watching opportunities, with new wonders in every new season.
As one of the oldest Lijiang attractions, the grand temple was constructed in 1727, during the Qing Dynasty. It originally had 13 separate structures, but only six have survived to this day. Several were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. The number 13 also figures into the grand hall, which was built 13 meters high (about 42 feet). No other temple in Lijiang has more pillars than Zhiyun, not even Wangu Temple. While you’re standing in the grand hall, you won’t be able to miss the exquisitely carved window and door frames emblematic of Zhiyun Temple.
Beyond the interiors of the temple, you’ll want to spend some time exploring lovely surrounding parks that comprise one of the first wetland preserves in China. If you’re looking to add some time outdoors to your China vacation, a stroll or bicycle ride around Lashi Lake will sure to delight, as will a paddle boat ride on the lake. Many of the trees are more than 200 years old—the cherry, plum, mulberry, and peach trees blossom in the spring before bearing fruit in the summer. Ancient ginkgo trees and Chinese scholar trees also surround Zhiyun Temple and Lashi Lake. These outdoor wonders attract wild birds in droves, especially in winter when they head south in search of the relatively warmer weather that Lijiang enjoys.