Temples are not just an indication of the three major traditions of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism: they are also shaped by the religion of the people as practised by the ordinary Chinese. Perhaps that's why I can't imagine travelling through the country without examining these spiritual buildings and their fascinating architecture.
I'd read about it and now I can really feel it: the temple was the center of Chinese religious and social life up until 1949. Everyone came to pray, and to be with friends and family, as well as to enjoy a meal and to gain protection from evil spirits. It was a space which displayed all the diversity of daily life, and where activities were in full swing. As well as being a meeting place, it also found itself at the center of weddings and funerals.
A such, regardless of whichever city in China I am in, I like to head for the temple to burn a few sticks of incense to honor ancestors, and to be present at intimate moments in the lives of the locals. I exchange a few words with a person who passes by, ask questions about the ancient objects that often decorate the premises, and I soak up the gentle, peaceful atmosphere.
It is possible to visit temples in the major cities, just as you can in the mountainous regions, far from the din of daily life. They appear even more magical, because their role is to protect the place where they are located, and I can attest to that: you feel a little safer thanks to the temple.
In China, there are four sacred mountains that are consecrated to Buddhism : Mount Wutaishan, Mount Emeishan, Mount Jiuhuashan and Mount Putuoshan.
One of those is the location of my two favorite temples: the Temple of the Light of Buddha and the Southern Zen Temple on Mount Wutaishan. The first includes extraordinary statues, calligraphies and and frescoes while the other is home to China's oldest wooden temple. Each time I ended up there, I was surprised by the lavish architectural style, which is worthy of the finest imperial palaces.