Directly west of the city center, this Daoist monastery is culturally and historically the most important sight in the city. It's said that at Qingyang Fair (its first incarnation), Lao Zi attained immortality. And it was here that he revealed the Daode Jing (Classic of the Dao) to Yin Xi, frontier guardian at the Hangu Pass and last man to see Lao Zi before he left the world of men for Mount Kunlun, gateway to the Western Paradise. Today Qingyang Gong is one of the most active and important Daoist monasteries in China. Among its treasures, of greatest historical significance is a set of rare and elegant pear-wood printing plates of abstracts of scriptures in the Daoist canon. The grounds contain six halls on a central axis, a room for printing Daoist texts that stands to the east, and a room for worshiping Daoist sages that stands to the west. The Hall of Three Purities (Sanqing Dian) is the monastery's main building, but the most emblematic has to be the Bagua Ting (Pavilion of the Eight Trigrams). This octagonal building sitting on a square pedestal (symbolic of the earth) rises 20m (65 ft.) and has two flounces of upturned roofs covered in yellow, green, and purple ceramic tiles. Between the roofs, each facet of the octagon has at its center a plaque of the eight trigrams set off by a pattern of swastikas, symbolic of the sun or the movement of fire. The 81 carved dragons are said to symbolize the 81 incarnations of Lao Zi, but the number has closer associations with Chinese numerology and the belief in nine as the most "accomplished" of numbers. A bookstore in the Hunyuan Dian (Hall of Chaotic Origin) sells souvenirs alongside Mao bookmarks, Daoist study guides, and a fortunetelling manual called "Unlocking the Secrets of the Book of Changes." If you buy one of the likenesses of Lao Zi that comes in a cloth envelope and hand it to the Daoist priest behind the counter, he'll burn incense over it to kaiguang or "open its light."

Escape the din of the city at the partially covered outdoor teahouse, where customers play mahjong and chat with friends (albeit sometimes on cellphones). Next door is a vegetarian restaurant, open 9am to 2pm.