A peaceful oasis in the heart of the city, the Lama temple is a centre of Tibetan Buddhism dating back to 1694. As you wander the streets of northeast Central Beijing you will find the biggest temple of Tibetan Buddhism nestled in between the grey houses of the Hutong neighborhood.
The temple is known by several names: Lama temple or the Yonghe Temple. Yongle means “Palace of Peace and Harmony” in Chinese.
“When we all achieve individual peace, there will be world peace”
by the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet
We felt this sense of calmness as we walked into this beautiful temple in Beijing on that winters day in 2018. We had decided to visit this temple as it will be years before we ever go to Tibet and we wanted to experience some of this uniqueness in Beijing. It is the biggest Tibetan temple outside of Tibet, in China.
It was built in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty and was the Imperial residence of Prince Yin Zhen till he was crowned Emperor Yong Zheng and moved to the Forbidden City in 1723. After the death of the Emperor Yong Zheng, his coffin was placed here.
Subsequently, the monastery became a residence for large numbers of Tibetan Buddhist monks from Mongolia and Tibet, and so the Yonghe Lamasery became the national center of Lama administration.
Yonghe Gate Hall 雍和门殿
After walking down the Imperial way from the entrance, you will reach the Zhaotai Gate which is the entrance to the north yard. It used to be the outer wall of the temple. This gate was only used by emperors.
As you wander thru the gates for Emperor, you’ll enter the second courtyard. It is here, that you are greeted by sight of praying locals in front of a cloud of burning incense before Yonghe Gate. The Yongle Gate was the original gate to the Lama Temple. These days its known as the Hall of the Heavenly Kings, named after the 4 monuments of Kings that decorate the inner walls of the palace.
In the second courtyard you will see the most amazing bell with these incredible lions on them. If anyone knows that the inscriptions are please leave a comment.
The Hall of Harmony and Peace (雍和宫)
The next hall is Yongyou Hall. Going back to the royalty theme, this building became the original place of residence for an Emperor before he was throned. This hall also became the very same Emperor’s resting place at the time of his death.
The Hall of the Wheel of the Law (法轮殿)
The Hall of the Wheel of the Law or now known as the Falun Hall was originally the living place for the Emperor’s wives.
These days the hall has a more spiritual purpose as a site for Buddhist prayers and scripture reading. At the center you’ll find the altar along with sacrificial offerings before a large statue dedicated to Tsong Kha-pa, the founder of Lamaism. Surrounding the altar at all sides you’ll see 500 Arhats strategically placed out for lamas to perform their Buddhist rituals and read their scriptures. It is here, we listened to the Monk praying.
The Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses (万福阁)
It is in the fifth hall, the Wanfu Pavilion, the Lama temple reveals its magnificence. As you walk in you will see this awe-inspiring, 18m-tall statue of the Maitreya Buddha in its Tibetan form. It is the biggest wooden Buddha in the world. It is clothed in yellow satin and reputedly carved from a single trunk of Tibetan sandalwood from Nepal. We have seen a few big Buddha in our travels, but it is quite something to be seen.
The statue was a gift from the seventh Dalai Lama to the Emperor Qianlong in 1750, and took three years to be transported from Lhasa to the capital.
The temple was the site of an armed revolt against the Chinese Nationalist government in 1929.
After the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949, the temple was declared a national monument and closed for the following 32 years. It is said to have survived the Cultural Revolution due to the intervention of Premier Zhou Enlai. Reopened to the public in 1981, it is today both a functioning temple and highly popular tourist attraction in the city. The temple is listed in the Lonely Planet in top 10 Things to do in Beijing.
We loved it, the Monks were in prayer as we arrived. Out of respect I didn’t film inside, we just watched. A very special time to be there and experience this.
Highly recommended site for history and Chinese culture lovers and architecture enthusiasts to spend a good few hours between 1 to 3 hours.
Pricing CNY 50 each, about NZD$11 per person or EUR 5.50
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Made with Love and Passion for the Open Road,
Traveller’s Nest Overland team,
Ro and Mark
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