Lingyin Temple, also known as Temple of Soul's Retreat (literal translated name), is the most celebrated place of interest around West Lake and one of the top ten Buddhist temples of China. In 1961 it was listed for protection as a key provincial historical and cultural site and considered a leading center for research related to Chinese Buddhist culture. Situated at the west end of the West Lake, the temple is confronted with the well-known Peak Flying from Afar (famous for its grotto carvings) and backed by Northern Peak.
Lingyin Temple was founded in 328 AD during the Eastern Jin Dynasty by an Indian monk called Hui Li. In the 10th century during the Kingdom of Wuyue with Hangzhou as its capital, the temple reached its peak and boasted nine multi-storey buildings, 18 pavilions, 72 halls, and more than 1300 dormitory rooms, inhabited by more than 3000 monks. Since then, the temple has remained one of the ten largest Zen Buddhist temples in China. In its 1700-year history, it has experienced repeated destruction and renovations. During the Cultural Revolution ( a social-political movement from 1966 to 1976), the temple and grounds suffered some damage. However, they escaped large scale destruction partly because of the protection of former Premier Zhou Enlai. Today the temple is thriving as a destination for both pilgrims and tourists.