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LAMA TEMPLE (YONGHE GONG)

Beijing’s most spectacular place of worship is also the most famous Buddhist temple outside of Tibet. It has five main halls, as well as some stunning statuary. The path through the Lama Temple proceeds from south to north – from earth to heaven.

NEED TO KNOW

prac_info 12 Yonghe Gong Dajie • 6404 1919 • Subway: Yonghe Gong Exit C • Open 9am–4.30pm daily (Nov–Mar: to 4pm) • Adm ¥25, audio guides ¥50 (plus ¥200 deposit)

Google Map

  • The snacks at the kiosks are overpriced, so it is a good idea to bring your own refreshments.
  • Photography is not allowed within the halls, but you can take pictures of the exteriors and of the courtyards.
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Lama Temple (Yonghe Gong)

1. Hall of the Heavenly Kings

The first hall has a plump laughing Buddha, Milefo, back-to-back with Wei Tuo, the Guardian of Buddhist Doctrine. They are flanked by the Four Heavenly Kings.

2. Hall of Eternal Harmony

This, the second hall, contains three manifestations of Buddha representing the past, present, and future. They are flanked by 18 luohan – those freed from the cycle of rebirth.

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The splendid interior of the hall of Eternal Harmony

3. Hall of Eternal Protection

The third hall contains Buddhas of longevity and medicine, plus two tangkas said to have been embroidered by Emperor Qianlong’s mother. Behind the hall is a bronze sculpture of Mount Meru.

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The enchanting Hall of Eternal Protection

4. Hall of the Wheel of Dharma

Hall four has a large statue of Tsongkhapa, the 14th-century founder of the Yellow Hat sect of Buddhism. Dominant in Tibetan politics for centuries, the sect is led by the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama.

5. Monks

At one time there were 1,500 monks at the temple; now there are only around 70. Although of the same Yellow Hat sect as the Dalai Lama, the monks are required to reject Tibetan independence.

6. Hall of Ten Thousand Happinesses

The final pavilion houses an 80-ft (25-m) high Buddha carved from a single piece of sandalwood. There’s a splendid collection of Tibetan Buddhist objects in a room behind the hall.

7. Prayer Wheel

Spinning a prayer wheel sends a written prayer on coiled paper to heaven. A little yellow arrow taped to the frame of the wheel reminds worshipers that the wheel is to be spun in clockwise direction

8. Lion Statue

A large imperial lion is a reminder that the complex was the residence of future Qing emperor Yongzheng. On ascending the throne in 1722, and in keeping with tradition, his former home became a temple.

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Beautifully carved Lion statue

9. Incense Burner

There are incense burners in front of all the many altars throughout the temple. Shops lining the entryway to the complex and in the neighboring streets are piled with bundles of incense sticks for sale for use at the temple.

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Devotees burning incense sticks

10. Drum and Bell Towers

The temple’s Drum and Bell towers are in the first courtyard after passing through the main entrance. The huge bell has been removed from its tower and placed on the ground.

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The temple’s grand drum and bell towers

PANCHEN LAMA

While the Dalai Lama, head of the sect to which the Lama Temple belongs, lives in exile, the second head, the Panchen Lama, resides in Beijing and recognizes Chinese authority. However, the matter of the true identity of the Panchen Lama is mired in controversy. China supports one candidate, while the Tibetans recognize another – only he vanished in suspicious circumstances in 1995. Later, in 2018, the Dalai Lama confirmed that the Panchen Lama was alive and well.

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