Qiongzhu Temple,also called Bamboo Temple,is situated on the Yu'an Mountain to the northwest of Kunming amid wooded peaks, clouds and mist, and flowing streams. It was first built in the Yuan Dynasty.
During its history, spanning nearly 1,000 years, the Qiongzhu Temple has been burnt to ashes several times and then reconstructed. The present structure mostly dates from the late Qing Dynasty. Many antiques are on display in the temple. From the famous poet monk, Dandang of the late Ming Dynasty, to the patriot general, Li Genyuan of this century, numerous people have left their antithetical couplets here. But what makes this temple famous is the colorful clay sculptures of the 500 Buddhist arhats. They were created in the Qing Dynasty, during Emperor Guangxu's time(1875-1909),when the temple was undergoing major repairs. Li Guangxiu, a famous folk clay artist from Sichuan Province, took his students to Kunming where they spent seven year (1883-1890) preparing the sculptures.
The arhats stand beside the central Buddha in six rows, with three levels in each row. Each arhat is about one meter tall. Each of the 500 arhats has a different expression and gesture. This is in complete contrast to the usual fixed style of Buddhist sculptures. With the religious subjects and use of exaggeration, the ancient artists created lively images. Some of them are reaching for the moon with extremely long arms, some are crossing the ocean on extra long legs. There are bare-footed monks and naked-bellied Buddhas. Some are lost in deep thought, some are telling each other good news. Some are tranquil, some angry, some surprised, some curious. One is scratching his back, another is poking his ear. Here are most of the expressions of man in this world- a representation of life as it really is. Hence, the 500 arhats of the Qiongzhu Temple are known as the "Sculptured pearls in the oriental treasure-house." The temple is renowned throughout the world for these sculptures.