Once at the heart of old Hohhot, this temple is now surrounded by a modern imitation of itself, sans residents, and while this takes away from the flavor of the neighborhood, this vast temple is still worthy of a visit. It's said that at one time this 6th-century temple had over 400 lamas in residence. Later, the Qing government (1644-1911) decreed that no more than 80 could live in Hohhot's earliest Tibetan temple. Today Da Zhao houses 16 students from all over Inner Mongolia and only about 50 monks, but it is still an active center of Buddhist worship. Unlike Beijing's famed lamasery, Yonghe Gong, Da Zhao looks and feels much more like the monasteries of Tibet, but with Chinese characteristics. Instead of offerings of tsampa (roasted barley), devotees leave mounds of uncooked rice; and the pervading smell is of incense rather than rancid yak butter. But as in Lhasa, worshipers here drape their favorite Buddhas and bodhisattvas with shiny white ceremonial khata scarves. As you make your way through the complex, look for Da Zhao's three most prized holdings: the 400-year-old Silver Buddha; in front of it, a pair of vivid golden dragons coiled around two floor-to-ceiling pillars; and exquisite Ming wall murals (in their original paint) depicting stories from Buddhist lore. Go all the way to the back of the complex to find a library full of antique sutras wrapped in orange and yellow cloth. Peek into the less-visited side chambers, too, where you're likely to find a lone lama chanting and playing Tibetan cymbals or a devotee kowtowing in the half-dark.