Great Charity Temple is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in China. It was located to the west of Xisi crossroad,in the Xicheng District. As its name goes, it is a temple of great charity, so its as well called Great Charity Temple. As for today, it is the site of Chinese Buddhism Association, and the center to conduct national Buddhist activities.
The overall arrangement of this temple is symmetrical. On its medial axis stand such important buildings as the Main Gate is composed of three doors connected by walls, which were decorated with colored glazed eaves and equipped by a stele. The Bell Tower and the Drum Tower right in front of the tourists when enter into the Heavenly King Hall, where the bronze statue of the Maitreya Buddha guarded by the four Heavenly Kings standing in the dominate center.
The second courtyard is the Mahavira Hall, in which a bronze vessel made in 1793 lays. Inside the hall are statues of Buddha and 18 arhats (Buddhist practitioners said to have special powers). Across their backs is a painting by an artist of the Qing Dynasty. The painting, 5 meters (16.4 feet) high and 10 meters (32.8 feet) wide, is a great artwork, as the artist has painted it with his fingers rather than a brush pen.
The residence of Buddhisattva is the Yuantong Hall in the third yard.
The two-storied Sutra Hall of the fourth yard houses the collection of sutras and treasures. It is filled with curiosities that have been given as gifts by friendly Buddhists of other states, and over 100,000 volumes of sutras. Amongst these, the sutras written in blood from the Song and Ming Dynasties are especially precious.
Guangji Temple was founded at the end of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), and destroyed by war afterwards. At the beginning of the Tianshun reign (1457-1464) of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Zenghui and Yuanhong, two monks from Shaanxi Province, came here to raise funds and rebuilt this temple at the same place. In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1840), because emperors must pass Guangji Temple whenever they went out of the city, it began to be much valued by the imperial family. Emperors of several eras came here in person, inscribed poems, established steles, or granted tablets with autographs to this temple, which suddenly promoted its status. Since then, Guangji Temple has become a very important temple in Beijing. In 1935, it was rebuilt again, and the buildings became more magnificent. In 1953, the Buddhist Association of China was founded here.