There are scores of Buddhist sites in and around Xiamen, but perhaps the most significant—and our favorite—is Nanputuo, a stunning Tang Dynasty temple not far from the Conrad, adjacent to Xiamen university. This ancient complex of gardens and pagodas is spread out at the foot of pine-clad Wulao Mountain (if you’ve got more than an hour to spare, opt for the invigorating 45-minute hike to the peak). At the temple’s main entrance, fall in step with the devoted by lighting a sandalwood joss stick, then bowing low three times in silent prayer. Continue through the main hall towards Guanyin, the multi-limbed Goddess of Mercy (and the deity to see for a blessing of compassion). Nanputuo is also home to a Buddhist institute, so you might spy saffron-robed monastic students dashing between their studies and prayers. Amble beyond the main hall and find a quiet spot by the tranquil koi pond, next to a pagoda with its roof curled upward in a gentle smile. There’s also a boutique selling (quite effective) meditation CDs, as well as a unique and highly prized incense made from aloe or agarwood (沉香). If time permits, dine with the monks at the Nanputuo Temple Vegetarian Restaurant, where you can choose a set menu or a la carte dishes (all menu entries in Chinese, and all Buddhist-approved). Be sure to come hungry—or share the set meal with a friend—as wasting food is very frowned upon.
Nanputuo Temple is next to the campus of Xiamen University, about a 10 minute walk from the Conrad. Getting there can be faster by taxi, depending on traffic; however, road partitions make it difficult to hail a taxi for the return trip to the hotel.
NANPUTUO TEMPLE 南普陀寺: 515 Siming Nanlu, Siming district; www.nanputuo.com