In Haiyan village southwest of Dianchi lake, Stone Dragon Temple squats on a hillside that looks across the water to the Western Hills.
The first temple on the site was built in the early Ming dynasty (14th century), with a wooden plaque inscribed in the Chongzhen emperor’s own script, “The pine trees in the wind, the moon reflected in the water”. Rebuilt during the Qing dynasty, it was once a large complex where local magistrates would hold open air feasts taking in the view across the lake.
During the anti-Japanese war (1937–45), when Kunming was under threat, the Kunhua provincial high school for girls (an institution of some note) made the temple its temporary home. There were over 1,000 students and several hundred teachers living here. Under headmaster Yang Jiafeng the school was a centre for the new progressive teaching, including printing of the Shanghai based journal Women’s Voice .
In the 1950s the statues and the entrance halls were demolished. During the 1970s’ Study from Dazhai period, the Lake View Pavilion and another temple hall was destroyed and the temple trees cut down to make way for fields of crops. Of the ten inscribed stone tablets (records of major historical events), only one survives. One temple hall was left standing, as were four trees (Cupressus funebris) over a century old. In 1986, it was listed as a protected cultural relic. In 1999 the local village committee spent some money on repairs, and organized 12 village elders to look after the place on a rotation basis.
Now the local government, in conjunction with a large real estate company, is rebuilding the temple from scratch – the existing old buildings will be demolished, though some of the stone carvings and tablets will be saved and replaced in the new building.