The White Cloud Temple is also called Baiyun Guan by most Chinese people. As one of the three "ancestral courts" of the Quanzhen Sect of Taoism, it is located on the east side of Baiyun Road, Xicheng District, about 10 minutes of walk east of Western Beijing Train Station. It was first founded in the mid-8th century during the Tang Dynasty, and was initially called Tianchang Abbey (Abbey of Celestial Perpetuity). During this period, the abbey was state sponsored and staffed by an elite clergy. From 1125-1215 when Beijing was controlled by the Jin Dynasty, the abbey served as the Daoist administrative headquarters and played an important role in state religious cults. In 1148, the abbey was taken over by the patriarch Qiu Chuji of Complete-reality school, and became the headquarters of its movement until the establishment of the Ming Dynasty.
Qiu Chuji renamed the abbey Changchun Gong (Palace of Eternal Spring). Qiu’s successor Yin Zhiping (1169-1251) built a memorial shrine over Qiu’s grave. This shrine became a temple in its own right called Baiyun Guan. The abbey was damaged when the Mongols took over in the late 13th century, and during Ming times the Changchun Gong disappeared. However, Baiyun Guan survived and took over the functions of Changchun Gong. During the Ming, monks from the Zhengyi school took over operations of the temple, but continued traditions and ordination ceremonies of Complete-reality school. Zhengyi control over the temple continued until the 17th century, when their monopoly ended and the master Wang Changyue from the Complete-reality school took it over.
To this day, White Cloud Temple remains controlled by Complete-reality school. During the 20th century, the abbey was without an abbot for the 1940s, and was closed when the communist government came to power in 1949. Unlike many other historical sites which were damaged during the Cultural Revolution, Baiyun Abbey was well-protected and remained safe. Today is again a fully-functioning temple and is the seat of the Chinese Taoist Association.
The architecture seen today is mainly from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties. The Center of the Chinese Taoist Association, founded in 1958, is also located in the temple. Nowadays, the White Cloud Temple attracts pilgrims and tourists from all over the world. The Spring Festival Fair and celebration at the White Cloud Temple is also a wonderful place to find out about Chinese culture and tradition.
Every year on the 19th day of the first lunar month a festival is held at the abbey in celebration of Qiu Chuji’s birthday. It was thought that Qiu would return to earth as an immortal on this day. The festival was first held during the Yuan Dynasty, but was suspended after the People's Republic was established in 1949. The temple was revived in the 1990s, and continues to be held to this day.
Architecture in the White Cloud Temple
The White Cloud Temple has various halls which house the gods of Taoism. The buildings of the White Cloud Temple complex, arranged generally in a straight line, can be divided into three groups, the middle section, the east section and the west section. At the back you will find a beautiful garden.
The Middle Section
The middle section includes the main buildings which contain over 50 halls, spanning an area of about 2 hectares. You enter the grounds through a gate in the outside wall and then walk through the large gateway that leads to the temple gate. Beyond the gate are Wofeng Bridge, Lingguan Hall, Yuhuang Hall, Qiuzu Hall, and other buildings.
The West Section
In the west section you will find the statue of the divine animal Te, Citang Hall, Baxian Hall, Luzu Hall and other halls.
The East Section
You will find Sanxing Hall, Cihang Hall, Zhenwu Hall and Leizu Hall in the east section of the temple grounds.
Yunji Garden is at the back of the White Cloud Temple. In the center of the garden are the altar, where commandments and rules are taught, and Yunji Hall where Taoist sutras are preached.