The Temple of the Reclining Buddha is situated at the foot of the Western Hills about 30 kilometers west of Beijing. The temple was first built during the Zhenguan period (627-249) of the Tang Dynasty, when it was also known as the Temple of Peaceful Longevity (Shou'ansi). In later periods it fell into ruin and was rebuilt and renamed several times. One of the last major renovations was completed in 1724. When it was renovated and expanded in the Yuan Dynasty, a huge statue of recumbent Buddha was cast. It was renamed the Temple of Eternal Peace during the Ming period. When it was restored in the Qing Dynasty, it was given another name: the Temple of Universal Awakening. It is generally referred to as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
The temple compound is built on an enormous scale. Covered galleries and auxiliary halls to create a completely enclosed series of courtyards link four large halls aligned along the central axis. The way leading to the temple is lined by towering ancient cypresses, with a glazed archway standing right in front of the temple. The archway is made of marble, crowned with glazed tiles of various shapes and colors. The first structure, the shanmen, serves as the main gate. The second large building is the Devaraja Hall (Hall of the Heavenly Kings) and the third is the Hall of the Buddha of the three Worlds. In traditional temples, this would be the largest hall in the compound, but because the fourth hall contains the image of the Reclining Buddha, the situation here is reversed. The famous bronze Buddha is more than five meters long. It lies in a sleeping position, with one arm extended and the other propping up its head, and is surrounded by 12 smaller Buddha. It is said that the posture of the group represents a scene in which Sakyamuni was giving instructions to his disciples under the bodhi tree while he was ill. To make the setting conform to the story, several bodhi trees were planted in the temple. They are believed to have come from India. The bodhi tree has long, narrow, dark-green leaves, and its white flowers blossom in late spring and early summer, resembling myriads of little white jade pagodas hanging upside down amidst the dark leaves. The buildings were renovated and redecorated after 1949.