A short walk south-west of Luilichang and hidden down a hutong not far from Ox Street is a quiet and secluded temple famous for its clove trees and numerous ancient gingko trees. The oldest surviving temple in Beijing, Fayuan Temple, was built during the Tang Dynasty in 645 to commemorate soldiers lost in battle. However, it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times since then, falling prey to war, fire and earthquake, and much of what you see today was built in the early 18th century. During the Qing Dynasty it was converted to a Buddhist temple, where in 1956 the Chinese Buddhist Academy was founded.
Fayuan Temple is a gem – it’s both wonderfully peaceful and tranquil, yet active, with a lively Buddhist community. Monks dressed in flowing yellow robes pass quietly through the six main buildings as young boys, barely teenagers, sit in the sun, cross-legged in their robes reciting scriptures. It’s refreshing to see an active temple with Buddhist worshippers who make their way to pray in front of the huge reclining Buddha in the final temple rather than just another tourist attraction.