This beautiful Buddhist temple and monastery is a must-see sight for any visitor to Beijing. What really distinguishes the Lama Temple is its massive size and the sheer splendor and intricacy of its decoration. The Lama Temple started its life in 1694, not as a place of worship but as the residence of the future Emperor Yongzheng who was at the time still a prince. In 1722 Yongzheng took the reigns as emperor and the complex was converted into a lamasery (a Buddhist Monastery) of the Gelug School of Buddhism. Yongzheng was laid to rest here in 1735 and soon afterwards Yonghegong was given royal status, making it a place for emperors to worship.
Set on a north-south axis some 480 meters in length, there are five halls in the Lama Temple, with the three-arched Zhaotai Gate at the south. From south to north the first hall is the Hall of Heavenly Kings, which originally formed the entrance to the lamasery. Next is the main hall, the Hall of Harmony and Peace (Yonghegong) which houses statues of the Buddhas of the Three Ages, cast in bronze. Next up is the Hall of Everlasting Protection, which at one time served as the future Emperor Yongzheng’s living quarters and later his place of burial. Then there’s the Hall of the Wheel of Law, which serves as the venue for religious ceremonies. By this time, you’ll be feeling a little overwhelmed by the magnitude and beauty of the complex, but there’s one more surprise to come. The Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses is the tallest hall in the complex. The reason being that it houses a towering 18 meter statue of Buddha. The Lama Temple holds many other smaller pavilions, towers, statues and artifacts, most of which are helpfully explained by signs in English along the way. You could easily spend two hours or more exploring this magnificent lamasery.
Admission: ¥25. Open: 9am-4pm.
Address: 12 Yonghegong Dajie. Tel: +86 (010) 6404 4499. Website: www.yonghegong.cn
Directions: Take the subway to Yonghegong station, which deposits you at the north of the temple. From there, walk south along Yonghegong Dajie until you reach the entrance at the south of the temple.
Show the taxi driver: 请带我去雍和宮，谢谢。 (Please take me to the Lama Temple. Thank you.)