The Temple of the Reclining Buddha is situated at the foot of the Western Hills about 30 kilometres west of Beijing. It was first built in the 7th century at a cost of 5 million taels of silver.
When it was renovated and expanded in the Yuan Dynasty, a huge statue of recumbent Buddha was cast. It was renamed the Temple of Eternal Peace during the Ming period. When it was restored under the Qing, it was given another name: the Temple of Universal Awakening. It is generally referred to as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
The way leading to the temple is lined by towering ancient cypresses, with a glazed archway standing right in front of the temple.
The archway is made of marble, crowned with glazed tiles of various shapes and colours.
In the centre of the first courtyard is a little pond with a stone bridge spanning it. The Bell Tower and the Drum Tower stand respectively on each side of the courtyard.
The buildings are symmetrically laid out. Five main halls stand one after another, all with side halls on both sides. The third hall is the Hall of the Reclining Buddha, containing a copper statue 5.2 metres in length in recumbent position with one arm straightened and the other turned to support the head. It was claimed that 250,000 kilograms of copper was used to cast the enormous statue. The statue was completed in 1321. Around the Reclining Buddha are twelve smaller statues. It is said that the posture of the group represents a scene in which Sakyamuni was giving instructions to his disciples under the bodhi tree while he was ill. To make the setting conform to the story, several bodhi trees were planted in the temple. They are believed to have come from India. The bodhi tree has long, narrow, dark-green leaves, and its white flowers blossom in late spring and early summer, resembling myriads of little white jade pagodas hanging upside down amidst the dark leaves. The buildings were renovated and redecorated after 1949.