Of the numerous temples in Guangzhou, be sure to put two of the most celebrated ones at the top of your sightseeing list: Guangxiao and Liurong. The history itself, which dates back more than 1,000 years, is enough to warrant a quick stroll, especially since the two temples are in short walking distance of each other. Both are open all day until about 5 p.m. — if you time it right, there are plenty of places to grab a quick, cheap lunch nearby as you walk from one temple to the other.
Guangxiao Temple, known as the Bright Filial Piety Temple, is the largest and most influential temple in the city, one that many Cantonese say predates the founding of Guangzhou itself. The temple has served as an important center of Buddhism since the 4th century A.D., and to this day, locals flock to Guangxiao for daily worship and offerings. The main building, Mahavira Hall (pictured above), houses three newly built Buddhist statues: Sakyamuni in the center, flanked by Majusri on the left and Visvabhadra on the right. The temple also houses two iron pagodas, an East and West Pagoda (pictured right), each carved with miniature Buddhas and inscriptions. A lovely koi pond populated with colorful goldfish and charming red-eared sliders sits in one corner of the complex makes for a lovely resting point. A dish of fish food is worth its minimal price. Entrance fee to Guangxiao is CNY 5.
Liurong Temple, or Temple of the Six Banyan Trees, has seen its fair share of construction, destruction and reconstruction. Its current name comes from celebrated writer and poet Su Dongpo, who inscribed “liu rong” on the pagoda at the request of one of the residing monks in 1100 A.D. At the center of the complex is the tallest pagoda in the city, the Flower Pagoda (pictured right), standing at nine stories or 57 meters tall. To the west is the main hall of the temple, which houses three golden copper Buddha statues representing past, present and future. The burning of incense as an offering to the ancestors and gods is a big activity here (and at Guangxiao), one that tourists can share along with the locals. To partake, just purchase joss sticks directly from the temple and follow the motions of the fellow monks and worshipers — with your head bowed, hold the incense within your flattened palms, then shake up and down slowly while reciting a prayer. Once finished, place the incense sticks in the bowl to continue burning. Entrance fee to Liurong is CNY 5 for the temple and CNY 10 for the pagoda.