The temple is now a tourist attraction as the island is significant in Chinese Buddhism. In January 2004, entry tickets to the temple cost 5元 per person.
Built in 916, at the time it was called 不肯去观音院 (pinyin bu ken qu guanyin yuan).
In 1080, during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the Emperor Shenzong of Song China renamed the temple 宝陀观音寺 (pinyin bao tuo guanyin si). Shen Zong donated lands to the temple, and a new monk was ordained every year. (After the temple was renamed, the old name for the temple was still used to refer to a nearby hill, 紫竹林 (pinyin zi zhu lin), on which a 20 metre tall Guanyin now stands.) The monks studied Buddhism and the temple slowly prospered.
In 1214, still in the Song Dynasty, Emperor Ningzong of Song China donated tens of thousands of min (lines of cash) to the temple and presented them with a sign reading ‘General Funds Hall’ (圆通宝殿; yuan tong bao dian).
In 1298 by order of Emperor Chengzong of the Yuan Dynasty, 李英 (li ying) repaired the temple, completing in 1301. The monks were given over 4000 mu (2.7 km²) of land, and 20 min of government funds. In 1299, the abbot of the temple (一山一宁; yi shan yi ning) was appointed the director of Buddhist teaching for the region (江浙释教总统; jiangzhe shijiao zongtong) and was sent as an emissary to Japan by the emperor.
In the winter of 1313, Emperor Renzong’s mother sent an envoy to present the temple with 868 metal bars and three qing of land, and to make offerings.
In 1327, Emperor Taiding presented the temple with 1000 metal bars and 2 qing 26 mu of land.
In 1386, during the Ming Dynasty, Duke Tang (汤和; Tang He) worked was asked to come to the mainland advise the Emperor. He brought with him 30,000 people from 46 islands, including the monks of Putuoshan. At the same time, Duke Tang ordered the burning of 300 temples on Putuoshan. He also moved a large statue of Guanyin to a temple (郡东栖心寺; jun dong xi xin si) on the mainland, which was then renamed to 普陀 (pu tuo). (The temple is now known as Qita Temple. It is located in Ningbo.)
In 1515, the Buddhist community began to recover through donations and alms.
In 1553, the Ming government under the Jiajing Emperor moved the monks and destroyed temples once more.
In 1572, a monk named Zhen Song (真松) came to Putuoshan to help rebuild it to its former glory.
In 1574, a monk named Zhen Biao (真表) wanted to ascend the mountain to locate the site of old Bao Guo Si (宝陀寺), destroyed 200 years previously, but was not allowed. Despite this, he still ascended the mountain and located the old site of the temple, and managed to rebuild a small monastery, only to have it destroyed by a military commander named Xu Jing Xing (徐景星). Afterwards, Zhou Liangbin (周良宾), a Ningbo government official had Zhen Biao and a group of nuns punished. Fours years later, Zhen Biao was made abbot. He had the Hall of Heavenly Kings one another hall (云会尝; yunhuichang) built.
- 916: Temple built as 不肯去观音院.
- 1080: Emperor Shenzong renames the temple 宝陀观音寺.
- 1214: Emperor Ningzong made a large donation to the temple.
- 1298: Chengzong orders Li Ying to repair the temple. Repairs are completed in 1301. The temple receives land and government funds.
- 1299: The abbot of the temple is appointed director of Buddhist teaching for the region and is sent as an emissary to Japan by the Emperor.
- 1313 (Winter): Emperor Renzong’s mother sends an envoy to present the temple with further funds and land, and to make offerings.
- 普陀山史话, 张坚. 甘肃民族出版社. ISBN 7-5421-0728-3