The Western Hills, over 2,500 meters above sea level, also called the Green Peacock Mountain, refers to a range of five mountains stretching over 40 kilometers. Seen from afar, its undulating skyline resembles a graceful young lady sleeping on her back, hence the name of the "sleeping beauty". Its luxuriant trees and bamboos set off splendid Huating Temple, Taihua Temple, Sanqing Monastery and the Dragon Gate. In The Annals of Mountains and Rivers of Yunnan, Yang Shen, a Ming-dynasty poet praised the Western Hills thus:
The Azure Mountains with precipices reflected on vast rippling blue waters at its foot in the bright moonlight, and flying clouds skimming over high above, are indeed one of the best scenic spots in Yunnan.
Lying 16 kilometers west of Kunming City, the Western Hills can be reached by bus, first westward along the Burma Road to Gaoqiao, and then southward along the western shore of Dianchi Lake.
Huating Temple: This is the largest Buddhist temple in Kunming and its history stretches back to 900 years. Inside are three gilded lacquer Buddhas seated upon lotus thrones and 500 statues of Buddhist Arhats on the sidewalls. There is a stark contrast between the three majestic Buddhas and the seemingly easy-going poses of the luohans (Arhats). Additionally, this Huating Temple has an interesting Bell Tower, and two halls: Devajara Hall and Mahavira Hall.
Taihua Temple: Located two kilometers from the Huating Temple, Taihua Temple was built during the 14th Century (the Yuan Dynasty) and is the oldest temple in the Western Hills. Taihua Temple is famous for the rare flowers and trees that fill its gardens and courtyards. Here, you can enjoy camellias, magnolias, and sweet-scented osmanthuses. It is the natural beauty of this temple that has made it a special place that has made it a special place to visit. Under the cool shadow of the tall, straight trees, you can watch exquisite sunrises and sunsets from Taihua Temple, while enjoying a variety of floral scents both common and rare.
Sanqing Pavilion: South of Huating Temple, Sanqing (Three Purities) Pavilion was built as a summer house in the early 14th century for a Mongol prince. Later, during the Ming Dynasty, it was rebuilt according to Taoist architecture and became a Taoist shrine. Here are statues of Zhen Wu and Taishang Laojun (the Gods of Taoism). Following Taoist symbolism of longevity, there is a carving of a green snake winding itself around a tortoise. It is said that touching the carving will bring you long life. The two-storey pavilion is a now restful teahouse where visitors can refresh themselves from their journey and enjoy a splendid view.
Dragon Gate: Dragon Gate is the steepest spot in the Western Hills and well worth climbing up the winding old stone stairs because the view is spectacular. In 1781, a pious Taoist monk named Wu Laiqing started to carve the steps leading to the top of the mountain where he could build a shrine. After his death, two gentlemen and the local villagers carried on this incredible labor of love. In 1853 after so many years of hard work, the stone steps leading to the natural cliff-top platform were completed. Just before the cliff platform, you pass through an archway on which is inscribed "Longmen" (Dragon's Gate). Touching the center of the arch is considered good luck and many people have their pictures taken at this point. When standing at Dragon Gate and seeing the splendid views, you cannot but feel awe-inspired by the vision, dedication, and reverence for nature and the people who created this walkway. One's first view from here is one of those special moments in life when you feel as if you have almost reached the top of the world.
Opening Hours: 08:30 to 18:00
Admission Fee: CNY 20
CNY 30 for the Dragon Gate