Chinese Buddhist temples are never single buildings. They always consist of a group buildings following a fundamental patter, which can, however, be modified. The main buildings and their symmetrically corresponding secondary buildings form individual groups and courtyards. The entire temple complex is spacious. The buildings inside the complex are usually single-storied and the main halls are sometimes decorated with a double roof. The towers, pavilions and halls can be multi-storied structures.
The Chinese temple complex has been subject to great structural changes throughout the centuries. But temple architects follow the basic principles of secular structures from the Tang Dynasty onwards. The complexes stand on a central axis, usually a north-south axis: east-west only as an exception. (Guiyuan Temple is just the very exception.) The main buildings are strung along this central axis, their broadest sides facing south or east.
The most important and most frequently presented building inside a Buddhist temple complex are the main entrance gate, the bell and drum towers, the Hall of the Heavenly Kings, the Hall of the Buddha and a pagoda.
Buddhism is said to be founded in India in the 6th century BC by Siddatha Gautama (BC565 –BC486), the son of a nobleman and member of the Kshatriya caste near the present borders of India and Nepal. Buddhism advocates that all the people are created equal and turns against the caste system of Brahmanism, so it was popular with the common people.
It was said that Buddhism was spread to China in 2 BC. At the beginning, it was only regarded as a kind of witch. About 200 AD, Chinese version of Buddhist s scriptures began to appear, and thus, Buddhist doctrines began to emerge with traditional Chinese religious thought. From 2nd century to late 6th century, translation and research o