The western-most courtyard is known as the Courtyard of the Stupa, and is the burial place of a number of famous monks from earlier times, including Jixing (1741-1810) who was the 12th Master of the Pure Land Sect.
The entrance area to the temple is unusually attractive, with several pools, backed by a grove of bamboo that has spread widely across the front of the temple grounds. To the east, a ridge is covered in beautiful cypress and juniper trees, and there is a short walk through this area, with statues of the different animals of the Chinese zodiac.
Just inside the entrance is a wishing pool, where visitors can throw tokens or coins as a test of their throwing skill. Good fun for the children.
In true theme-park style, common to so many parks and hills in China, a chair-lift whisks visitors up a few hundred metres to see the upper temple buildings. The upper area has concreted paths heading off along a ridge to the west, where a pavilion provides great views north and south.
As with every hair-lift installation in China, there is a toboggan ride down the hill to take visitors back down to the entrance area.
With the development of the Huairou 'weekend economy', this temple is becoming increasingly popular with Beijing people, and it is not the quiet spot it once was.
To the north-east of Huairou is one of the most attractive - and the largest - temple compounds in the Beijing area, set on the extensive slopes of the foothilss of the great mountains that fringe the northern parts of Beijing municipality.
Originally, the temple was built as the Temple of Great Brightness (Damingsi) in 348AD. During the time of Ming Emperor Zhengtong, 1436 to 1449, it was renamed Huguo Zifu Chansi, the Temple Guarding the Country. Given its position close to the passes through the mountains, this was an apt description. However, at some stage a legend developed of two red snails that were found in a pool near the temple. These snails emitted strange lights and were worshipped by the local people, who gave the hill there the name Hongluoshan and the temple became the Hongluosi or Red Snail Temple, always a very important place for the Pure Land Sect of Buddhism.
The temple has five main courtyards, in the traditional layered Buddhist style, with the main hall n the central courtyard. Outside, two beautiful gingko trees stand serenely overlooking the worshippers and visitors - I'm sure these silent giants could tell a few tales if they could talk. The temple buildings stride up the south-facing hillside, providing good views out over the North China Plain towards Beijing in clear weather. However, normally, the smoggy sky hides even the airport, although a nearby hill is a turning point for inbound aircraft and the planes can be seen, if not heard, eerily low in the grey haze. Perhaps the red lights were not snails, but the beacons of the turning aircraft.
On the approach roads up to the Red Snail Temple, there are many, many restaurants at the side of the road. There are simply hudreds of them, each with a person out on the roadside trying to flag down passing cars to entice the occupants inside.
The food is good, especially is you choose the fish.
Favorite thing: This links to a general topographical map of the Huairou area. The disconnected roads to the west of town link up in town of course.