The 7 Most Beautiful Temples in Asia
Unless youâ€™re born and raised in Asia, you probably havenâ€™t even heard of some of these places. But just like the much more famous European cathedrals and churches, Asiaâ€™s temples are amazing works of art just waiting to be discovered. Hereâ€™s a look at the seven most beautiful holy places in Asia.
7. Kinkaku-ji, Japan
Also known as the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ji was built in 1397 as a retirement villa for one of Japanâ€™s famous shoguns. It was his son who turned it into a Zen temple. This three-story building is where many important relics of Buddha are being kept.
It was burned down twice during the Onin War and once in 1950 accidentally, by a monk who then tried to kill himself. Kinkaku-ji was completely rebuilt in 1955 and the decaying gold leaf covering the top two stories was replaced by a thicker new one. The setting of the Golden Pavilion is also, as you can see, breathtaking.
6. Prambanan, Indonesia
Built sometime around 850 CE, the Prambanan temple complex in Indonesia is one of the worldâ€™s largest remaining Hindu legacies. The foundation rises 47 meters above the ground and it symbolizes the triumph of the Hindu religion in Indonesia. It has been added on UNESCOâ€™s World Heritage Site list in 1991.
There are over 200 temples in the Prambanan temple complex, but the most impressive ones are the three set in the primary yard and dedicated to the gods Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. The highest and largest one is dedicated to the goddess Shiva and it is beautifully decorated with statues and paintings depicting Hindu legends.
5. Borobudur, Indonesia
One of the oldest holy places in Indonesia, Borobudur is a Buddhist monument built sometime in the ninth century, where those of strong faith still come to pray. The three levels of Borobudur, that the pilgrims have to ascend, symbolize the three levels of Buddhist cosmology, Kamadhatu, Rupadhatu and Arupadhatu.
Borobudur was deserted for centuries until 1814 when the English ruler of Java Island at that time learned about it from the locals. Restoration started immediately and now this Buddhist place of pilgrimage is on UNESCOâ€™s World Heritage Site list. Unlike other temples, Borobudur was built atop a bedrock hill, 265m above sea-level.
4. Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar
Measuring 98 meters in height, this giant stupa is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in all of Myanmar, hosting relics of the last four Buddhas enshrined inside it. There are no records of when the Shwedagon Pagoda was built, legends say it was 2500 years ago but archeological reports say the stupa dates back to somewhere between the 6th and 10th centuries.
Shwedagon Pagoda is also known as the Golden Pagoda and unlike other structures that are painted golden, this Buddhist place of worship is actually covered with real gold. In the 15th century the queen ordered that it be leafed in gold and to this day, visitors sometimes buy small gold leafs and decorate the pagoda.
3. Tigerâ€™s Nest, Bhutan
The most sacred place in Bhutan, Tigerâ€™s Nest Monastery is also one of the most beautiful and impressive holy structures in the world. It sits atop a cliff, at a height of 3,120 meters, watching over the Paro valley below. Legend says Guru Rinpoche (an important figure in Buddhism) flew to this place on the back of a tiger and meditated in a cave for three months. The cave is said to be part of Tigerâ€™s Nest Monastery.
The Tigerâ€™s Nest Monastery we see today was built in 1962, but it was seriously damaged in a fire that broke out in 1998. Reconstruction was done using old photographs and writings but there was hardly any documentation on the inside of the monastery and the objects it housed. People can journey to this incredible place by foot or on mules.
2. The Golden Temple, India
Sri Harmadir Sahib, as it is known in India, is one of the most sacred places for Sikhs everywhere. It started out as a quiet lake in the middle of a forest, a place where Buddha himself is said to have stopped for meditation. Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh religion also stopped there and after his death, his followers continued to come here for meditation. Over the centuries this Sri Harmadir Sahib became more and more beautiful under the rule of each guru of the Sikhs.
Today, the Golden Temple is regarded as a symbol of original Sikh architectural style where the Moslem and Hindu ways of construction come together in harmony. The Golden Temple is built out of marble and gold and decorated with countless valuable gems. It is as peaceful as it is beautiful.
1. Wat Rong Khun, Thailand
The White Temple built in the Chiang Rai province is unlike any of the other temples of Thailand. It is a modern masterpiece built by Chalermchai Kositpipat, a popular artist who dedicated 10 years of his life to this grand project, in the name of Buddha. It is a modern project built almost entirely out of white materials and decorated with small pieces of mirrored glass that make it glitter, especially during the night.
Asked about his project, Chalermchai Kositpipat said he intended to build a replica of the magnificent and resplendent heaven. He managed to blend traditional Buddhist elements with modern, contemporary themes and thatâ€™s what makes Wat Rong Khun unique. If youâ€˜re ever in Thailand be sure to stop by the White Temple, it is more than worth the time.