Situated in the northeast area of Beijing City is the Yonghe Lama Temple or Yonghe Lamasery, or Yonghe Temple. It is also called Harmony and Peace Lamasery which is regarded as the biggest and most well-preserved lamasery in modern China.
Constructed initially in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty’s reign, this structure used to be the residence of Emperor Yongzheng when was serving the country just as a prince. Its status was then changed formally from a dwelling to a lamasery in 1744. From then on, it became the Lama administration’s national center.
Main Buildings Description
When you arrive at the south end of the temple, you will enter it through a yard that has a screen wall and 3 Paifangs or gateways. You will also notice the red walls and stone lions which symbolize its origin as a residence of a Royal Family member. If you, on the other hand, enter the Gateways in the north, you will see a wide straight road which functioned as the road for the carriages of the Qing Dynasty’s emperors and wives. At the far north end of this road is the Gate of Peace Declaration or Zhaotaimen which is composed of 3 large archways. The central archway was only for the exclusive use of the emperors.
When you pass through the Zhaotai Gate, you will find the second yard which houses a Bell tower on the eastern side and a Drum tower on the western side. There are also two octagonal Stele Pavilions located in front of the said towers. Emperor Qianlong’s own words were engraved in the stele to explain the traditional, as well as the historical, reasons why the dwellings must transform into temples.
The original main entrance to the Yonghe Lama Temple, Yonghe Gate, is now known as Devaraja Hall or Hall of the Heavenly Kings since statues of four very influential Heavenly Kings are located on the two sides of the inner palace walls. The northern Heavenly King located on the eastern side is holding a snake and treasures while the southern King situated on the eastern side is holding an umbrella and a silver mouse. On the other hand, the southern King located on the western side has a sword in His hand and the northern King situated on the western side has a Pipa in His hand. You will also find a smiling Maitreya right in the middle of the Palace.
As you try to leave the Devaraja Hall, you will instantly see an ancient copper cooking vessel that was made in 1747 during the Qing Dynasty’s reign. This vessel is included in ‘the three rarest things in Beijing’ because of its high artistic value. There are six doors placed in the upper part of the vessel. Each door has two dragons playing with a ball cast while three lions that are playing with a ball are carved on the seat. Located at the northern side of the vessel is the Great Stele Pavilion where Emperor Qianlong’s words about the origin and meaning of Lamaism are engraved. If you go to the north of the pavilion, you will find an odd-shaped hill that is known as Xuyu Hill. It is a divine place of rich religious meaning that was constructed in the center of a pool. It represents a place that each Buddhist would want to go eagerly.
The main palace of the Yonghe Lama Temple is the magnificent Hall of Harmony and Peace. It has three bronze Buddhas namely Kasyapa-matanga on the right, Sakyamuni in the middle, and Maitreya on the left. There are also 18 Arhats or Buddha disciples’ statues on each side of the Hall. Lastly, there is a picture of Avalokitesvara with numerous hands and eyes that is hanging on the west wall.
Yongyoudian or Hall of Everlasting Protection is located at the north of the Hall of Harmony and Peace. This is where Emperor Yongzheng’ living room is situated when he was still living here. Today, there lies a statue of Bhaisajya-guru where sacrificial offerings can be made.
Far north is the Hall of the Wheel of the Law of Falundian. It is the location for Lamas reading scriptures and conducting Buddhist ceremonies. This structure has unique architectural features of Tibetan and Han Nationalities. It was used before as the residence of the Emperor’s wives. At the center of the hall is a large statue of Tsong Kha-pa who was an ancestor of Lamaism. Situated at the back of the statue is an Arhat Hill which contains 500 Arhats made of gold, silver, copper, iron, as well as tin. There is also a wooden basin located in front of the Hill which was known to have been used for washing and cleaning the body of Emperor Qianlong 3 days after he was born.
The last formal palace here is the Wanfuge or Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happiness. It is a three-story high structure which makes it the highest palace in the Yonghe Temple. Inside of it are more than ten thousand Buddha displays and its center is a gigantic statue of Maitreya placed on a white marble base.
How to Lama Temple
- You can either take Subway line 2 or 5 to go to Yonghegong Station. You must then get out from Exit C and walk south to go to the Yonghe Lama Temple.
- You can also take the bus and if you prefer to get off at Yonghegong Station, you must take bus 13, 116, 117 or 684. Riding bus 13, 18, 44, 75, 116, 684, Te 2 or Te 12 can also bring you to Yonghegong Qiao Dong Station. Lastly, bus 117 or 225 can get you to Yonghegong Qiao Bei Station.
- CNY 25 but children 3.9 feet and below are free.
- 9 in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon from April to October
- 9 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon from November to March