Located in Fayuansiqian Street, Xuanwu District of Beijing, the Fayuan Temple is the oldest extant temple in Beijing. The Fayuan Temple was originally built in the 19th year and bears witness to the wars in Beijing's history. In 645, one of China's greatest feudal rulers, Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), fought a war of conquest against minority peoples in Northeast China. The Tang army failed to subdue its enemy and winter compelled the emperor to order a retreat of his cold and hungry army to Beijing. Many soldiers died on the way. Then the emperor ordered the construction of the Fayuan temple to commemorate these dead soldiers.
Fayuan Temple covers an area of 6,700 square meters. It has a compact overall arrangement and buildings are arranged along the medial axis symmetrically. Main buildings there include the Gate of Temple, Heavenly King Hall, Main Hall, Hall of Great Compassion, Sutra Hall, and Bell and Drum Towers. On both sides of the Gate of Temple stand the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower respectively. The Main Hall, which is magnificent and sacred, houses Statues of Flower Adornment School's three saints: Vairocana Buddha, Manjusri, and Samantabhadra. The Hall of Great Compassion houses statues, carved stones, and artistic masterpieces. Among these statues there stand the oldest statue in China -- Pottery Statue of Sitting Buddha of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220AD), Pottery-bottle Statue of Buddha of the Eastern Wu Dynasty (229-280AD), Stone Statue of Buddha of the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD), and Steel-cast Statue of Kwan-yin, etc. They are all rare cultural relics. Moreover, it also exhibits Buddhist scriptures, statues, and cultural relics presented by various countries.
In 1956, the Chinese Buddhist Academy was founded here. In 1963, the conference of Buddhists from eleven Asian countries and regions was held here. In 1980, the Buddhist Books and Culture Relics Museum of China was built here, and in the same year the Statue of Master Jianzhen was displayed here after returning from overseas exhibition. The temple has gradually become one of research centers for Buddhist culture and Buddhism.