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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe Yonghe Temple, also known as the Lama Temple, or alternatively the Harmony and Peace Palace, is located in Dongcheng District of Beijing, the capital of China. It is both a monastery and temple belonging to the Geluk School of Tibetan Buddhism, and embodies Han Chinese and Tibetan architectural styles.
HistoryThe building of the temple began in 1694, during the Qing Dynasty , and originally served as a residence. It was mostly law eunuchs who lived at the temple. It was later converted into a court for Prince Yong, also known as Yin Zhen, the son of Kangxi Emperor and the future Emperor of the Yongzheng Empire. In 1722, the building was converted into a lamasery, and was used by monks following Tibetan Buddhism. When Prince Yong died in 1735, at which time he was Emperor, his coffin was placed inside the temple. His successor gave the temple imperial status as a sign of respect and did so by replacing the turquoise-colored stones with yellow ones, as these were reserved only for the emperor. Following this, the temple became a large resident for many Tibetan Buddhist monks from Mongolia and Tibet, and the temple eventually became a national center for Lama administration. Temporarily closed during the cultural revolution, and only survived after being destroyed because of the apparent work of Premier Zhou Enlai, the temple was reopened to the public in 1981.
ArchitectureThe Lama Temple was designed with a lot of thought about the architecture and how it would be represented. All the buildings are arranged along a north-south axis, with a length of 480 meters, with the South Gate at one end, and the five main halls arranged along the axis, each separated by a courtyard. As the most important building, the Hall of Harmony and Peace is purposefully situated in the middle of the axis.
Surrounding the temple is a landscape of pine and cypress trees, planted to create a secluded and peaceful environment. In a city of very little green, time spent at the temple makes for a pleasant escape from the hustle and bustle of Beijing.
Touring the TempleIt is best to arrive from the South End, where upon arrival you will enter a pavilion containing three gateways, known as Paifangs. Here there are red walls alongside stone lions, symbolizing that the palace originally served as a residence for an Imperial Family member. On the North Side, there is a wide straight road, used as transportation; built wide to be able to carry the carriages of the emperors and their wives. If you follow the road to the end, you encounter the Gate of Peace Declaration, known as Zhaotaimen, which is comprised of three large arches. The side arches were used for visitors, while the middle one was exclusively for the use of the emperor. Through the archways you will encounter the second court yard, containing the Drum Tower as well as the Bell Tower. If you look closely you can see scriptures carved by Emperor Qianlong explaining his desire to later change the residences into temples.
What was originally the main gate, known as Yonghe Gate, is now known as Devaraja Hall, or the Hall of the Heavenly Kings, and is named as such because of the statues of four very powerful Heavenly Kings on both sides of the palace walls. Each king holds something different, representing different values. The Hall of Harmony and Peace is the main palace, and inside three bronze Buddhas await you. Additionally there are 18 statues of Buddha disciples positioned around the hall. Wanfuge, also known as the Pavilion of Tens of Thousands Happinesses is one of the last must-see places in the palace, though there are so many things to see it is hard to fit it all in in one visit. Wanfuge is three stories high, and there are literally thousands of Buddhas on display inside.
While the temple is visited by many tourists, the majority of visitors are Buddhists paying respects and practicing their religion. Often they burn joss sticks in order to worship the Buddha idol. You can also burn a joss stick and they can be bought outside as well as inside the temple. Be warned though that there are often so many visitors that lama will ask you to simply place your stick on the table rather than lighting it.
Getting ThereTo get to the temple you can take Subway Line 2 and 5, getting off at Yonghegong Station. Exit from the Southeast Exit, Exit C, and the Temple is 400 meters down the road on the left. Alternatively you can take a number of bus routes, and get off at Yonghegong, or Qiao Dong Station.
You can visit the temple in about two hours, and it is recommended to visit early in the morning, when there are fewer tourists and a nice morning light casts itself over the buildings.
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Author: hannahbarkan. Last updated: Jan 06, 2015