There are some spectacular Buddhist places of worship around the world, some perched precariously on cliffs while others boasting of gold-plated pagodas. From Angkor Wat to Paro Taktsang, here's a look at some beautiful Buddhist temples and stupas across the globe.
Taung Kalat Monastery, Myanmar
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Located on top of Mount Popa, a volcanic plug (or neck), one needs to climb 777 steps to reach this 19th-century monastery. Pilgrims visit the site to see the many Nat temples and numerous relics located there. One can also enjoy picturesque views of the city of Bagan from the 4,980-foot-high (1,518 meter) mountain.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
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The temple in Siem Reap was built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century. One of the most important places of pilgrimage in Southeast Asia, it symbolizes the cosmic world, with different features representing mountains, oceans and the dwelling place of the gods. The temple compound is one of the largest religious sites in the world and houses Hindu relief sculptures along with Buddhist art.
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The Tendai Buddhist temple in Nachi-Katsuura is also called the Temple of the Blue Waves and was built in the fourth century. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, it is situated near the beautiful Nachi Falls and is the first of 33 temples on the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage route.
Wat Rong Khun, Thailand
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Also known as The White Temple, this site in Chiang Rai was designed by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat and opened in 1997. It is made from pure white plaster (to denote Buddha’s purity) and glass (representing his wisdom), giving the temple a surreal appearance.
Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar
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Also known as the Great Dragon Pagoda, it is believed to have been built more than 2,500 years ago. The pagoda in Yangon comprises hundreds of colorful temples, statues and stupas, and houses strands of Buddha’s hair and other holy relics. While the pagoda is plated with gold, the stupa top is laden with thousands of diamonds.
Byodo-In Temple, O'ahu, Hawaii, US
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The temple was established in June 1968 to pay tribute to the Japanese immigrants to Hawaii on their centennial. This is a non-practicing temple and is a miniature version of the 950-year-old Byodo-In Temple in Uji, Japan. It is surrounded by lush landscape and gardens, along with waterfalls and ponds.
Wat Huay Pla Kung, Thailand
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The nine-tier Chinese pagoda is located near a giant Buddha statue in Chiang Rai and features a beautiful staircase with dragon heads. One can climb to the top and experience the stunning views of the surroundings.
Paro Taktsang, Bhutan
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Also called the Tiger’s Nest, the monastery hangs on a cliff overlooking a valley. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche, who is also known as Bhutan’s “Second Buddha,” meditated at the spot where the monastery is built. One needs to make a two-hour, 3,000-foot (914-meter) climb from the valley to reach the monastery, which overall is located 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) above sea level.
Kek Lok Si Temple, Malaysia
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Located atop a hill, it is one of the largest temple complexes in Southeast Asia. It showcases stunning sculptures, hundreds of carvings, murals and exotic pillars, and the seven-story pagoda features 10,000 statues of Buddha.
Peace Pagoda, Sri Lanka
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The pagoda in Unawatuna was built in 2005 by Japanese Buddhist monks of Mahayana sect. One of three Buddhist stupas in Sri Lanka, it offers splendid views of Galle Bay and the ocean.
Key Monastery, India
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The monastery was founded in the 11th century and is famous for its unique architectural style called Pasada. Located close to Spiti in Himachal Pradesh, it sits at a height of 13,668 feet (4,166 meters). It houses ancient murals and weapons and rare thangkas, along with images of Buddha in meditation.
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Built during the eighth and ninth centuries, this temple is located on the island of Java and is adorned with stone carvings that depict the life of Buddha. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1991, it is constructed in three tiers: a pyramidal base, the trunk of a cone and a stupa at the top.
Xuankong Temple, China
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Also known as Hanging Monastery, it was built more than 1,400 years ago. It appears hanging precariously on a cliff on Mt. Hengshan and overlooks a gorge. A unique feature is that the monastery is a sacred place for three different religions – Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism.
Pha That Luang, Laos
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Built around the third century, this temple in Vientiane is considered a national symbol of Laos. It is believed that the stupa houses a breastbone of Buddha, which is said to have been brought to Laos by an Indian missionary.
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One of the largest stupas in the world, the massive site dominates the skyline on the outskirts of Kathmandu. It was built in the fifth century and is also called the Jharung Khashor. The stupa is believed to house the remains of Kassapa Buddha.
Haeinsa Temple, South Korea
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The temple was founded in the ninth century and houses the complete copy of the Buddhist scriptures called the “Tripitaka Koreana,” which consists of 52,382,960 classical Chinese characters carved on 81,258 double-sided woodblocks in 6,802 volumes. The name of the temple translates to “Temple of reflections on a Smooth Sea.”
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The temple in Lhasa was built during the seventh century to house important Buddhist statues brought from China and Nepal. One of the most sacred places for Tibetan Buddhism, its architecture showcases the style of Han, Tibet, India and Nepal.
Tōdai-ji Temple, Japan
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Built in the eight century in Nara, it is one of the most important Buddhist temples in Japan. It features the Daibutsuden (or the Great Buddha Hall), which is believed to be the largest wooden building in the world, and one of the largest Buddha statues of the country.
Mahabodhi Temple, India
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The temple in Bodhgaya was built by Emperor Ashoka to commemorate the enlightenment of the Buddha. The Bodhi tree, where Buddha is believed to have attained Nirvana, is next to the temple. It also houses a shrine that has his statue in yellow sandstone.
Wat Phra Kaew, Thailand
Situated in Bangkok and called the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, it was built in 1785 and houses his statue carved from a block of green jade. A bell-shaped pagoda holds various ancient relics, and the pavilion has a corn-shaped summit, with the walls showcasing murals based on literature.