The White Cloud Temple, also called Baiyunguan, is a Daoist temple located in Xicheng District of Beijing. It is one of the Three Great Ancestral Courts of the Quanzhen sect of Taoism, and is entitled as the First Temple under Heaven.
The White Cloud Temple was first founded in 739 during the Tang Dynasty, and was initially called Tianchang Abbey. During this period, the abbey was state-sponsored and staffed by an elite clergy. From 1125 to 1215 when what is now Beijing was controlled by the Jin Dynasty, the abbey served as the Daoist administrative headquarters and played an important role in state ceremonies. After Beijing was taken by the Mongols in 1215, the abbey was taken over by the Quanzhen patriarch Qiu Chuji, and became the headquarters of the Quanzhen movement until the establishment of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). In October 1222, Qiu gave his exposition of Taoism to Genghis Khan after a three-year trek from Shangdong after being summoned. Qiu’s successor Yin Zhiping built a memorial shrine over Qiu's grave. This shrine became a temple in its own right called White Cloud Temple. The abbey was damaged when the Mongols took over in the late 13th century, and during Ming times the Changchun Gong disappeared. During the Ming, monks from the Zhengyi sect took over operations of the abbey, but continued Quanzhen traditions and ordination ceremonies. The extant temple was rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and exemplifies the Daoist architecture of that period. Today it is still a fully functioning temple and is the seat of the Chinese Taoist Association. Every year on the 19th day of the first lunar month, a festival is held at the White Cloud Temple to celebrate Qiu Chuji’s birthday. It was thought that Qiu would return to earth as an immortal on that day.
Like most other Chinese temples, the White Cloud Temple is laid out on a south to north central axis, with the entrance at the south end. There are five main halls built along the central axis, beginning with the Main Gate, Lingguan Hall, Yuhuang Hall, Laolv Hall, Qiuzu Hall and finally the Sanqing Hall. On either side of the main axis are two smaller axes, each containing halls dedicated to a variety of deities. In the rear of the complex is a garden which hosts the abbey’s ordination platform.