Located at the foot of the Western Hills，the Temple of Azure Clouds was first built in the early 14th century and named the Nunnery of the Azure Clouds. It was expanded in the early 16th century and again during the reign of Emperor Qianlong in 1748. At this time, the Hall of the Arhats (Luohantang), modeled after the Jingci Temple in Hangzhou, was built in the southern courtyard and the Diamond Throne Pagoda erected to its rear. Its landmark the Diamond Throne Pagoda can be seen towering amidst green trees from a far distance.
A stone-paved road leads from the front gate of Xiangshan (Fragrant Hills) Park directly to the entrance gate of the temple. A brook runs outside the temple and passes before the gate of the park. On entering the temple, the visitor will pass two huge statues of lions measuring 4.8 meters in height. Entering the gate you can see the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower, one on each side while in the center stands the Devaraja (Heavenly Kings) Hall, which houses a bronze image of Maitreya Buddha cast in the Ming Dynasty. The second courtyard contains the main hall of the temple complex. Inside the hall stand images of Sakyamuni and his disciples. A series of clay figurines standing against the walls make up a diorama of the monk Xuanzang’s passage to India in quest of Buddhist scriptures. The principal building in the third courtyard is the Hall of Bodhisattvas. The buildings in the fourth courtyard consist of the Rear Hall and its auxiliary halls, all of which are laid out in an orderly and harmonious manner. The principal building in the western courtyard is the Hall of the Arhats, designed in the form of a Greek cross. There are altogether 500 gilded wooden images and seven Buddha images crowded in to the hall. Each of these fine specimens of Qing Dynasty woodcarving has its own individual personalities and expressions.
In the northern part of the compound are the Spring Garden, the Azure Hall of Study and the Eyeglasses Pond. In the Spring Garden on the western side of the temple, underground streams from a mountain spring can be seen gushing out of the crevices in the rocks. Rocks, pavilions, pines and cypresses embellish the spot, making it ideal for relaxation and meditation.