Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Under renovation at the time of writing, the massive white dagoba of the famous Baita
Temple is visible from afar, rising over the rooftops of the labyrinth of hutongs that surround
it. Shaped like an upturned bowl with an inverted ice-cream cone on top (the work of a
Nepali architect), the 35m-high dagoba was built in the Yuan dynasty; it's a popular spot with
Buddhist pilgrims, who ritually circle it clockwise. The temple is worth visiting not least for
the collection of thousands of small statues of Buddha - mostly Tibetan - housed in one of
its halls, very impressive en masse. Another hall holds bronze luohans - Buddha's original
group of disciples - including one with a beak, small bronze Buddhas and other, outlandish
Lamaist figures. The silk and velvet priestly garments on display here were unearthed from
under the dagoba in 1978. A shop beside it sells religious curios, such as Buddha images
printed on dried leaves.
Lu Xun Museum
鲁迅博物馆 , lǔxùn bówùguǎn • Xisantiao Hutong, off Fuchengmennei Dajie • Tues-Sun 8am-5pm • Free
(bring ID) • 010 66164080, • Fuchengmen subway (line 2)
A large and extensively renovated courtyard house, this was once home to Lu Xun
(1881-1936), widely accepted as the greatest Chinese writer of the modern era. Lu Xun gave
up a promising career in medicine to write books, with the aim, so he declared, of curing so-
cial ills with his pithy, satirical stories. He bought this house in 1924, but as someone who
abhorred pomp, he might feel a little uneasy here nowadays. His possessions have been pre-
served like treasured relics, giving a good idea of what Chinese interiors looked like at the
beginning of the twentieth century, and there's a photo exhibition lauding his achievements.
Unfortunately there are no English captions, though a bookshop on the west side of the com-
pound sells English translations of his work.
One of the most appealing and accessible of Lu Xun 's tales is The True Story of Ah Q ,
a lively tragicomedy written in the plain style he favoured as an alternative to the complex
classical language of the era. Set in 1911, during the inception of the ill-fated republic, it
tells the life story of a worthless peasant, Ah Q, who stumbles from disaster to disaster, be-
lieving each outcome to be a triumph. He epitomized every character flaw of the Chinese
race as seen by his creator; Ah Q dreams of revolution and ends up being executed, having
understood nothing.
< Back to West of the centre
西直门 , xīzhímén
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