Known as "history's most faithful minister," Bi Gan's courage and honor have been the stuff of legend since his loyal service to his cruel and unstable emperor, King Zhou of Shang. While Zhou's other advisors fled, Bi Gan refused to abandon his post. This decision ultimately cost him his life. An act of unparalleled duty, Bi Gan earned the admiration of subsequent rulers, beginning with Zhou's successor, King Wu. Wu officially changed Bi Gan's family name to "Lin." Ever since, all peoples with the Lin surname are considered descendants of Bi Gan, and the Temple of Bi Gan is regarded as their ancestral shrine. Since 1993, memorial activities have been held here in honor of Bi Gan. Hundreds of thousands of "Lins" from over 26 countries have come to the Temple to pay homage to their ancestor and appreciate the history of their eponym.
The Temple itself was built during the Southern Wei Dynasty. The Emperor Xiaowen commissioned its construction to honor Bi Gan's faithfulness. Nearly 1,000 years later, the complex was reconstructed in 1494 AD, during the Ming Dynasty. Called "the First Temple Under Heaven" because of its complex of graves and temples, this spacious mausoleum covers a structural area of 47,000 square meters. Its main features consist of: the Holy Path, the Curtain Wall, the Main Gate, the Secondary Gate, the Stele Lined Corridor, the Wooden Memorial Arch, the Subordinate Hall, the Grand Hall and the Grave of Bi Gan. Similarly to the Temple, the Grave of Bi Gan is known as "the First Tomb Under Heaven" because of its status as the first grave in the form of tomb on record.
Inside the Temple, a number of precious relics are preserved. Among them are 64 steles of invaluable historic and cultural value. These steles include the stele carved by Confucius during the Spring and Autumn Period. This inscription is the only known example of Confucius' actual handwriting. Said to have been carved with the Master's sword, this stele has earned the title "the First Stele Under Heaven." Also among them are steles erected by Emperor Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty and Emperor Xiaowen of the Southern Wei Dynasty. The latter features an inscription by the celebrated calligrapher Cui Hao and is widely regarded as among the most excellent of calligraphic works. These steles are, in fact, part of a collection that features inscriptions from nearly every dynasty in Chinese history.