The Temple of Azure Clouds, or Biyun Si, situates at the foot of the Western Hills, just outside the north gate of Fragrant Hills Park on the outskirts of Beijing. Its landmark the Diamond Throne Pagoda can be seen towering amidst green trees from a far distance. The temple was built on six different levels, and each of the interconnecting courtyards has a special character. The Hall of Five Hundred Arhats is modeled on the Jingci Temple in Hangzhou. The figures, all 15 meters high, with their unique expressions and appositive stand in rows throughout the building, are shaped like a Greek cross.
The temple gate, the Mountain Gate, is guarded by both the universal stone lions and two Buddhist guardians. The five-meter tall guardians were constructed during the Ming Dynasty. The temple grounds have three main sections, the Front Palace, the Sakyamuni Palace and the Hall of the Arhats.
At 35 meters the Vajra Throne Tower is the highest building of the temple complex. The tower is beautifully carved all over with designs from various eras. Since the tower is built on the West Hill, you can get a complete view of Beijing from the top.
The Five Hundred Arhats Hall stands on the west side of the temple. Four wells a pavilion and nine halls make up the Hundred Arhats Hall. The hall is filled with 512 statues, 500 of which are Arhats, thus the name of the hall. Two of these Arhats were Qing emperors. Of the other twelve statues, 11 are bodhisattvas and one statue is of Ji Gong.
Apart from the temple complex itself, there is a red wooden plaque hanging above the front gate of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, the words on the plaque which is engraved in gold was written by his wife, Song Qingling. Inside this hall lies an empty crystal coffin presented by the USSR government in 1925 in memory of Sun Yat-sen, because his body had already been buried elsewhere, the coffin was left here till now. Photos of Sun Yat-sen, his handwriting, his books and his statue are also on display inside this hall.
A legend about Ji Gong that goes like this: A long time ago when a meeting of selecting Arhats was to be held in this hall, Ji Gong had arrived very early and found that the door was locked, so he went out to take a walk and met a girl who was in danger. After rescuing her, he returned to the hall and found that all the seats were occupied. Therefore, Ji Gong had to sit on the beam.
The Temple was first built in 1366 before the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty, named as the Nunnery of the Azure Clouds. Under the Ming two powerful eunuchs in 1516, Yu Jing and Wei Zhongxian, had it expanded at various periods, trying to make it their burial ground, but they didn't succeed. In 1748 during the Qing Dynasty under the reign of Emperor QianLong, who added the Hall of Arhats, containing 500 Buddha statues, till then large-scale construction work was done. He also erected the main temple building, known as the Diamond Throne Pagoda, a towering Indian "stupa" ringed with miniature stupas. Even in modern days the temple has seen active use. When Dr. Sun Yat Sen died in 1925 his coffin was briefly on display here before being moved to Nanjing, but a permanent memorial hall remains at Azure Clouds.
At the time of the founding of the People s Republic in 1949, the temple buildings fell in disrepair. In 1954, the temple was rebuilt and renovated, including the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. The general view of today has been seen clearly.