The Lama Temple, also known as Yonghe Temple, or Yonghe Lamasery, is located in Dongcheng District. This temple of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism is the biggest Tibetan Buddhist temple in Beijing.
Once this building belonged to a eunuch of the Ming Dynasty. In 1702 the Kangxi Emperor who was the second emperor of the Qing dynasty awarded this building to his fourth son, Yinzhen who was at the time a prince under the title “Prince Yong of the First Rank”, and became the third emperor of the dynasty: Yongzheng. That’s why it’s named also the Palace of Yonghe.
After the death of the Yognzheng, this palace was converted into a monastery. Lots of the Tibetan Buddhist monks from Mongolia and Tibet had then this monastery as their residence, and it became the center of the Qing government in charge of Tibetan Buddhism affairs across the country: The Qianlong emperors, who succeed the Yongzheng emperor and was the fourth emperor of the Qing dynasty had doubts about the reincarnation system in the Tibetan regions, because lots of Grand lamas were from the same family. To eliminate fraud, he founded the ‘Golden Urn’ system. When the monks founded the children of the reincarnations, they wrote children’s names on the papers and put these papers into this golden urn, then pick out one of these papers at random. The child whose name is on the paper will be the grand lama of the Future.
Today the Lama Temple is one of the most visited attractions in Beijing. On the first day of Chinese New Year, the Chinese people get up early and run to this monastery in order to burn the first incense, some people have been lining up there since midnight. According to the Chinese, the people who burn the first incense will be blessed. Some couples of the other province would like go there to pray for a child.
The Yonghe Temple with a combination of Han Chinese and Tibetan styles covers an area of 66,400 square meters. It needs about 2 hours to look around the Lama Temple. Along the axis from south to north, there are five main halls which are separated by courtyards, and these Buildings’ heights decrease from the south to the north: the Gate Hall of Harmony and Peace (Yonghemen), the Hall of Harmony and Peace (Yonghegong), the Hall of Everlasting Protection (Yongyoudian), the Hall of the Wheel of the Law (Falundian), and the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses (Wanfuge).
There are 3 must-see things. The three bronze statues of the Buddhas of the Three Ages in the Hall of Harmony and Peace (Yonghedian), the main hall of the temple.
The second is the Five-Hundred-Arhat-Hill in the Hall of the Wheel of the Law (Falundian). You will see 500 statues of the arhats made from gold, silver, copper, iron, and tin. Each arhat has a different posture : They are Sitting or lying, drunk or thinking, laughing or crazy on a hill made of red sandalwood.
The last one is the statue of the Maitreya Buddha carved from a single piece of White Sandalwood in the Hall of Ten Thousand Happinesses (Wanfuge). It is the biggest wooden Buddha in the world with a height of 26 meters, 18 meters above the ground and 8 meters underground. This was a gift from the seventh Dalai Lama to the Qianlong Emperor in 1750.
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