West Cloud Temple (Dunhuang, Gansu)

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Lying in the western suburb of Dunhuang city, the West Cloud Temple ( 西雲宮 Xiyun Guan ) was first built in the 8th year (1730) of the Yongzheng Era. Tradition has it that long, long ago, the Queen Mother ( 王母 Wangmu ) lived in Sanwei Mountain near Dunhuang. She came to and fro between Sanwei and the Jade Pond. Accompanying her journey east and west, purple air and auspicious clouds appeared. Looking from the ancient city wall in the evening, one could see rays shining from the west. The local people thus collected money and built a temple here named West Cloud Temple (also Resting Cloud Temple). West Cloud Temple stands against Sanwei Mountain, The Queen Mother Tower ( 王母樓 Wangmu Lou ) and the Venerable Sovereign Hall ( 老君堂 Laojun Tang ). Together with the Crescent Spring Ancient Temples, they form a group of temples laid out like the legs of a tripod. Originally, the West Cloud Temple had front, middle and rear halls all with mountain-like sloping roofs and three rooms. Rebuilt twice during the Republican period, the temple had seven magnificent halls. The south and north dipper towers stood beautifully upright with willow trees and flower pavilions around. The color statues depicting stories from the Journey to the West, the Luban windows and the flower-and-bird paintings on the folding screens were praised as "the three unrivaled" by the local people. Though damaged in the Cultural Revolution, most of its constructions survived. In 1981, the county government listed the temple as a cultural relic protection unit and then approved to the temple's opening as a Daoist activity site. In the 1990s, local people collected over ten thousand Yuan to repair its halls, statues and frescoes. West Cloud Temple regained its prime as one of the scenes of interest in Dunhuang.