Temple Treasure

A stunning urban retreat in Beijing

“As I pushed open the rusty gate, someone called out ‘You can’t go in!’” recalls Belgian entrepreneur Juan van Wassenhove. “Instantly, I was mesmerized.”

Six years ago, the idea for The Temple Hotel was born when this longtime Beijing resident was cycling around the Chinese capital’s maze of alleys known as hutong north of the Forbidden City when he saw an ornate wooden double roof peeking out above the standard grey slate landscape. His trespassing brought him to the Zhizusi, or Temple of Wisdom, one of three Tibetan Buddhist temples commissioned by Qing Dynasty Emperor Kangxi in the early 18th century. A former temple, now a present tavern – Van Wassenhove and several Chinese partners have since re-invented the site as an elegant eight room luxury inn.

Artisans from around the country were tasked with keeping the layers of history intact, beginning with a painstaking restoration of the 300 year-old Tibetan Buddhist temple and its monks’ quarters that now house three guestrooms, each seriously upgraded with sleek polished concrete floors, contemporary Chinese art and well-appointed bathrooms. An elaborately carved canopied opium bed in one, Peony, is as striking to behold as it is cozy to sleep on. Sublime symmetry and magnificent craftsmanship run throughout this urban retreat, culminating in an adjoining building that houses Gathering Sky, the only James Turrell art installation in China.

The winner of UNESCO’s Asia-Pacific Cultural Heritage Conservation Award in 2012, the retreat offers practical pampers like breakfast served anytime from 7am to 10pm, directly from the kitchen at Temple Restaurant Beijing, the onsite palace of French gastronomy run by a longtime manager for celebrity chef Daniel Boulud. Guests are encouraged to roam freely around the striking pine wood structure with nary a nail in its frame; to make themselves at home among van Wassenhove’s personal collection of East Turkistan and Tibetan carpets, Ingo Maurer lamps and contemporary Chinese art in the industrial chic lounge; and to explore the surrounding maze of fruit vendors and gossiping grandmothers in search of other tantalising vestiges of a vanishing China.

The Temple Hotel
23 Shatan North Street,
Dongcheng District,
Beijing, China
The Temple Hotel

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