Lama Temple, Beijing Yonghe Gong
The Lama Temple in the northeast of Beijing is one of the city's most attractive and best preserved temples. Built in 1744/45 by transforming a prince's residence, this was an imperial project which explains the roof tiles in imperial yellow. Its political purpose was to give Lamaism, the religion of recently annexed Tibet, an official seat in the capital. Accordingly, the complex has been built to generous proportions and equipped with valuable and monumental works of art. The entrance to the temple grounds is the south gate. On the way through the gardens is a courtyard with a drum tower (Gu Lou) on the left, and on the right a bell tower and two stele pavilions.
Opening hours: 9am-4:30pm
Hall of the Kings of Heaven
As the visitor proceeds through the grounds of the Lama Temple, he reaches the first of the five main halls. In the Hall of the Kings of Heaven (Tianwang Dian) stands a Maitreya statue surrounded by the four kings who are provided with symbolic objects: the eastern king with a toad, the southern king with a sword, the western king with a snake, and the northern king with a shield. Also noteworthy is the statue of Weituo, the protector of Buddhism, holding an iron staff.
Hall of Four-tongued Stele
The Pavilion of the Four-tongued Stele (Yubi Ting) stands in the center of the next courtyard, it houses a stele dating back to the year 1792. The history of the Lama religion is written on it in Chinese, Manchurian, Tibetan and Mongolian. Behind it is a bronze representation of the mountain of paradise, Sumeru. In the adjoining halls the holy scripts were studied.
Yonghe Gong Dian
The building adjacent to the Pavilion of the Four-tongued Stele is the main hall, Yonghe Gong Dian. Inside are three Buddha sculptures: Shakyamuni the Buddha of the present, the Buddha of the past, and Maitreya the Buddha of the future. Also to be seen are representations of eighteen Luohan, together with Kshitigarbha, who releases people from the torments in hell and Guanyin, the goddess of mercy.
Yongyou Dian Hall
Inside the Yongyou Dian Hall the Buddha Amitabja is displayed, to the right of that Yaoshi Fo, the Buddha of Medicine, and to the left Shihou Fo, the Buddha of the Lion's Roar.
Hall of the Buddhist Wheel
The Hall of the Buddhist Wheel (Falun Dian) is the teaching and assembly hall of the monastery. The interior is dominated by a 6m/20ft tall statue of Tsnongkhaba. At either side are two thrones covered in golden yellow which are prepared for the Dalai Lama and the Patschen Lama. Sacred manuscripts of Lamaism are kept underneath large murals. Behind Tsongkhaba is the hill of the 500 Luohan (original monks). The hill is beautifully carved from sandalwood and the figures are made from gold, silver, bronze, iron and tin.
Pavilion of Four Thousand Fortunes
The largest building at the Lama Temple, the Pavilion of Four Thousand Fortunes (Wangfu Ge), is situated in the fifth and last courtyard. Here stands an enormous sandalwood statue in honor of the Maitreya in the shape of a Bodhisattwa; it measures some 18m/59ft high and has a diameter of 3m/10ft, although the 8m/26ft high base lies underground.
Hall of the Illuminated Buddha
The eastern side-hall of the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Fortunes, the Hall of the Illuminated Buddha (Zhaofo Lou), holds an unusually beautiful bronze Buddha that seems to be carved from wood. It stands inside a magnificent shrine made from Nanmu wood.
In the eastern side-hall of the Lama Temple, the Medicine Hall, are statues by Tsongkhaba (1357-1410), one of reformers of the Lama religion and founder of the Yellow Sect, and one of the Buddha of Medicine.
Hall of Mathematics
Natural sciences are studied in the Hall of Mathematics (Shuxue Dian), which is the western side-hall of the Lama Temple.