by Lauren T
March 29, 2002
The pagodas, the largest and oldest of which was built in the year 876 A.D., are located in a nicely manicured park, along with the imposing Chongsheng temple in characteristic Yunnanese architectural style. The park also has many other secondary buildings including a small museum. (To be honest there isn't much interesting inside any of the secondary buildings, but they add to the landscaping). The gardens are lush, green and well cared for and have no shortage of comfortable, shady places to sit down and relax while enjoying the scenery. There is also a large marble market on the grounds where you can bargain with the locals for just about anything you can imagine fashioned from the famous marble quarried in this area.
While the temple looks appropriately interesting from the outside, on the inside, the recent renovations (or complete overhaul) really show. It looks more like the lobby of a four star tourist hotel (with a big Buddha in the middle of it just for show) than an ancient Buddhist temple--A mild disappointment, but not one that detracts from the rest of the experience.
At first it was I was a little indecisive as to whether I would recommend this particular attraction. The pagodas are very, very, interesting as far as pagodas go: large, beautiful, very well preserved (but not so well preserved that you don't believe they date back more than a millinium), and kept on very nice grounds with beautiful gardens and interesting structures including a rather dramatic temple--so it has plenty to recommend itself.
My only hesitation to recommend comes from the fact that, at 32 yuan, it is, by local standards, a bit pricy for what you get--particularly since you can see the pagodas themselves for free. You can't help but see them--they tower over the town--and they look sufficiently dramatic from the distance you can see them at without having to pay.
Still, the area around the pagodas is a pleasant interesting place to wander around, and you get a very good view of the pagodas themselves and surrounding areas and even though it is expensive by Western Chinese standards, it is only four American dollars, so I'm glad I went. Still, if you are on a very small budget, you can give this place a miss--It's not that important.
From journal Bringing in the Year of the Horse in Dali