In a dramatic mountain setting, the 1,600-year-old Lingyan Temple is most famous for the Thousand Buddha Hall, with its cast of 40 hand-carved and painted wooden figures seated around the chamber. Unerringly lifelike, each one is distinct, from facial features to the folds of their robes. Dating back to the Song Dynasty, these are some of the finest religious sculptures in China. Several years ago, researchers cracked one of the life-sized statues open and found a full set of internal organs inside, made out of stuffed silk.
In the temple grounds, the Pagoda Forest (Da Lin) is a totemic graveyard of sculpted towers erected over centuries, each marking the passing of a prominent monk. The size and artistry of each tower points not to the status of the deceased, but the prosperity of the temple at the time. The cycle of boom and bust, it would seem, is eternal.
Wande, 250300, China