West Hill is at the west suburb some 15 kilometers from the city proper. It contains the Huating Hill, Taihua Hill and Luohan Hill, extending a distance of more than 40 kilometers at an altitude of between 1900 meters to 2350 meters above sea level.
In the western suburbs of Kunming, lies Western Hills. They are also called "Sleeping Buddha Hills", for, looked at from a distance, they have the appearance of a giant sleeping Buddha. They have also been given another name - "Sleeping Beauty Hills"for the hills when viewed together look like a beautiful young lady laying beside Dianchi Lake with her face upward and her hair trailling into water. You can see the outline of her face, chest, and legs clearly.
Western Hills boasts an excellent environment with flourishing flowers and dense forest, providing tourists an excellent environment to enjoy the tranquility and marvelous scenery. No wonder that the place has gained a reputation as "having the most pleasant environment in the world"
In Western Hills, there are wonderful scenic spots such as HuatingTemple, TaihuaTemple, Sanqing Pavilion, and Dragon Gate. HuatingTemple is one of the largest Buddhist temples in YunnanProvince. It had been destroyed and rebuilt several times most recently in 1923. Daxiong Baodian Hall, Tianwang Hall and Kwan-yin Hall are some of the features in the temple. In the temple you can see three golden Buddha figures with kindly expressions, 500 life-like arhats which are vivid just like real people, and golden figures of Laughing Buddha. Besides, there are abundant colored clay figures depicting vividly various images of mythical animals.
TaihuaTemple gained its name for it is located on Taihua Hill. Originally built in the Yuan Dynasty (1206 - 1368), the temple is the oldest one in Western Hills. Daxiong Baodian Hall, Piaomiao Pavilion, Sizhao Hall are in the temple. The temple is famous for the beautiful rare flowers on the grounds. It is also a good place to watch the grand spectacle of the rising sun.
Sanqing Pavilion is built on the cliff at Luohan Hill. Being over 300 meters (approximately 984 feet) above DianchiLake, the pavilion looks like a 'castle in the air'. This temple has a Taoist influence, and 'Sanqing' in Taoism refers to the loftiest stature. The pavilion is a good place where you can not only visit the temples, but also enjoy a panoramic view of DianchiLake.
There is a saying - 'If you do not visit Western Hills, you haven't visited Kunming; if you do not come to Dragon Gate, you haven't been to Western Hills.' Being the outstanding scenic place in Western Hills, Dragon Gate is a big exquisite stone carved edifice. The stone paths, stone rooms, stone grottos, and stone Buddhist figures are all carved with excellent craftsmanship on a large natural rock. Like Sanqing Pavilion, Dragon Gate was also built on cliff. You can stand on the edge of the cliff holding the railing, looking downward to experience the steepness of the hill and enjoy the spectacle of DianchiLake.
Huating Temple At the belly of the West Hill, it is one of the grander Buddhist Temples in the region with a history of over 900 years. The temple has undergone several repair and reconstruction and the complex existing today was built in 1923 by a monk here. The temple contains a Great Hall, Heavenly Hall and Guanyin Tower, a tower for a huge clock, Yuhua Terrace and some other ancient buildings. In the Great Hall places three delicately carved golden Buddhist scriptures. The scriptures are in looks and grandeur in posture.
Taihua Temple Tiahua Temple is at the highway up the Tiahua Mountain. The temple was built in the Yuan dynasty hundreds of years ago. It contains a Great Hall, A heavenly Hall, a Elusion Tower and Grand-view Pavilion and some mansions and winding corridors. Taihua Temple has been famous the lush vegetation and blooming flower in the temple. In later spring or early summer, variety of flowers scatter everywhere around the temple with the camellia, yulan the most impressive and famous. The area around the temple is blanketed by bamboo forest and old trees.
Outside the gate of the temple grows a 600-year old gingko tree, whose trunk takes four –five men to circle with their arms stretched out. The branches of the tree spread out in all directions. The tree was said to be planted by one of the Ming Emperors.
Sanqingge Pavilions The complex stands on a sheer cliff and is heavily sheltered by green vegetation. It contains 11 buildings including Linguang Hall, Laojun Hall and so on. The bird-eye view from the buildings top is superlative with precipitous rocks, tree-sheltered pavilions, towers.
Longmen Grotto This is the largest and most beautiful Taoist stone carvings in Yunnan. It has four famous features of uniqueness, distinctiveness, danger and tranquility. Longmen Grotto ranks top of all the cultural heritage in and around Kunming and enjoys great fame internationally.
WESTERN HILLS ESCARPMENT ACCESS Access to Escarpment climbing is the same as that taken by tourists to Dragon Gate, which lies about 15 km southwest of downtown Kunming. The most convenient mode of transport is by minibus from the Liang Jia He bus stop, across the street from the Number 5 Bus Terminal on West Renmin Road. Mid-sized buses leave continuously from Liang Jia He starting at about 9:00 AM and go all the way to the end of the road for 5-6 yuan (do not get off at the Gao Qiao station at the entrance to Western Hills Park; go all the way to Long Men). From the end of the road, walk the 1.5 km road or ride the sightseeing cars (3 yuan) to the entrance gate to Dragon Gate. The Western Hills and the temples around Dragon Gate are big tourist attractions. Consult any guidebook or hotel staff for an explanation of the best way to get there. Upon reaching the entrance gate to Dragon Gate, you are now at the northern end of the Escarpment. The access trail for climbers skirts the base of the cliffs. About 50 m before the entrance gate, on the east (lake) side of the road, is a stone stairway that goes all the way down to Dian Lake at Dragon Gate Village. There is a large sign carved in stone near the top of the stairs indicating the "1000 Steps" to the village. Descend these stairs a short distance, for 3 levels, as they head in a southerly direction. After the third level the stairs abruptly switchback and turn north. At this switchback there is a cement wall with a warning sign painted on it. Go around the wall to the left and continue south on a trail along the base of the escarpment to the climbing.
WARNING: Much of the approach between the stone stairway and the Giant Book area is below the tourist trails on the ledges to Dragon Gate. As you can see from the garbage along the trail, a considerable amount of trash is pitched off. Don't linger along this part of the approach and keep an eye skyward. Helmets are a wise consideration. The last busses returning to Kunming from Dragon Gate leave around 6:00 PM, sometimes later if it's a busy weekend or holiday. If you're late, or have the time, descend the 1000 steps to Dragon Gate Village (about 3 km) and catch one of the numerous buses back to Kunming for 3 or 4 yuan. Be sure to take the Hai Kou buses, which drop you back at Liang Jia He on West Renmin Road.