Temple architecture in China also tends to follow a certain uniformity. There is little external difference between Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist temples, which again are housed in compounds with a north-south orientation.
Architecturally, the roof is the dominant feature of a Chinese temple. It is usually green or yellow and is decorated with figures of divinities and lucky symbols such as dragons and carp. Stone lions often guard the temple entrance.
Inside is a small courtyard with a large bowl where incense and paper offerings are burnt. Beyond is the main hall with an altar table, often with an intricately carved pattern. Depending on the size and wealth of the temple there are gongs, drums, side altars and adjoining rooms with shrines to different gods, chapels for prayers to the dead and displays of funerary plaques. There are also living quarters for the temple keepers. There is no set time for prayer and no communal service except for funerals. Worshippers enter the temple whenever they want to make offerings, pray for help or give thanks.
The dominant colors in a Chinese temple are red, gold or yellow, and green. The orange-red color range represents joy, green signifies harmony while yellow and gold herald heavenly glory. White stands for purity and is also the color of death. Grey and black are the colors of disaster and grief.
The most striking feature of the Buddhist Temple is the pagoda. It was probably introduced from India along with Buddhism in the 1st century AD. They were often built to house religious artifacts and documents, to commemorate important events, or to store the ashes of the deceased. It was during the Northern Wei period that the construction of Buddhist cave temples began and was continued during later dynasties. The caves at Longmen near Luoyang, at Mogao near Dunhuang and at Yungang near Datong are some of the finest examples.