Xuanmiao Temple: Suzhou's Old Centerpiece

Xuanmiao Temple's San Qing Hall seen from the side.
The temple's main paifang or
decorative gate.
The Taoist Xuanmiao Temple(xuanmiao guan; 玄妙館)—"Mysterious Sublimity Temple" or "Mysterious Essence Temple"—dominates the center of Suzhou. Even so, it was not on my class' itinerary! Had I not decided to explore the city center with some classmates, I would have never visited this charming temple. 

Located on Guanqian Street(觀前街), a famous pedestrian lane, Xuanmiao Temple's bright gold paint and predominant gate are difficult to miss. Initially built in 276 AD and named Zhen Qing Dao Yuan(真慶道院), the temple was destroyed during the Song Dynasty, and then rebuilt and renamed in 1264. It was damaged yet again in the 18th century and repaired in 1775. 
San Qing Hall's decorative roof.

I believe Xuanmiao Temple is one of the oldest structures in its area, which certainly adds to its appeal. There's something wonderful about having the opportunity to walk through such old buildings. My classmates and I nearly missed the chance. I remember we got to the gates about an hour before it was scheduled to close!

I love the temple's color scheme. The orange-gold against the reddish wood has a calming effect, especially with all the hustle and bustle of Guanqian Street.

The face of the temple.
The pot of incense.

The main building you will see at the Xuanmiao Temple compound is San Qing Hall(三清殿), which houses a good share of the temple's statues and idols.

One of the Taoist gods in main worship hall.
Xuanmiao Temple has several gorgeous, detailed
paintings like this one.
The offering area with a sea of
Captivating lights.
Other than marvelous statues, Xuanmiao Temple is home to several pieces of art. As old as they are, the colors still appear vibrant; they're almost as dazzling as the idols in the main hall.

I was taken aback by the sheer amount of donations at the temple! I wonder how often the pool of money is cleared out.

A lovely sitting area.
I suppose this is an old well.
I don't recall what this structor is for,
perhaps incense?
Around the complex's courtyard, there are several interesting structures and great places to relax surrounded by well-manicured flower arrangements and foliage. After shopping in the area, Xuanmiao Temple would definitely make for a perfect place to sit a recoup.

Additionally, there are a number of interesting tablets on the temple grounds. The one on the left commemorates the temple's repairs. 

Although brief, my visit to Xuanmiao Temple is one of the best memories I have from my 2011 class trip to China. I suppose it's because we had no guide, no clue as to where we were going! Perhaps when you wander to a place on accident, your memories are more vivid. 

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