The large Buddhist Wen Shu Monastery in the north of town has become a major tourist attraction in Chengdu and the surrounding neighborhood has undergone extensive renovations.
Where once there were just a few small, empty buildings selling ceremonial Buddhist trinkets, now there are streets filled with enterprising individuals hawking every knick knack imaginable. You can also get a caricature of yourself painted, eat the most expensive food around, or just sit and watch the crowds mingle. There is very little of the peaceful, Buddhist vibe left outside of the temple walls.
The temple itself is clean and relatively quiet. There are small ponds and underused buildings in corners of the complex where you can sit and relax. Every now and then a preoccupied monk scurries past, but the grounds are mostly filled with strolling visitors.
The monastery was built during the Sui Dynasty (605BC – 617BC) and fell in the flames of war during the Ming Dynasty. The present temple grounds were built under the supervision of Zen Master CiDu HaiYue in 1697, during the Qing Dynasty. Wenshu is the Chinese word for the future Buddha Manjusri, whose presence was felt during the construction of the original temple in the form of a persistent glow.
The best part of Wenshu Monastery for non-religious visitors is the tea house and vegetarian restaurant near the back of the temple from the maiin gate. The tea house is a simple, comfortable little place with bamboo chairs and tables and good local green teas. The restaurant can be amazingly busy on some days and completely dead on others, but the food is very good and imaginative.
Hours: 10:30am – 7:30pm
Tickets: 5 yuan
Teahouse: Jasmine, fine green tea for 10 yuan a cup
Vegetarian restaurant: Extensive menu with “faux shark, duck and quail” prices range from 5-25 yuan