On one of my recent visits to Beijing I decided to stay at the Hutong area near Confucius Temple. It was a wonderful area, filled with local alley magic and temple shops, but it wasn’t all Confucian. In that area is also one of the biggest temples in the region – Yong He Gong, or Lama Temple, a center for Tibetan Buddhism. It dates back to the 17th century, and one of the few temples to have made it in tact through the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
It’s a gigantic temple complex, with several large temple buildings, and thousands of worshipers saying their prayers.
China.org has the intro on the temple :
Historically, the Yonghegong Lama Temple was a residence for Emperors Yongzheng and Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty. It was built in the 33rd year of Kangxi’s reign (1694) and was changed into a Emperor’s palace in the 3rd year of Yongzheng’s reign (1725). In the 9th year of Qianlong’s reign (1744), it became a temple of the Lama Buddhist sect.
The Yonghegong Lama Temple was made up of three exquisite arches, the Yonghe Door, the Yonghegong Hall, Yongyou Hall, Falun Hall, Wanfu Hall, and the Neicheng Hall. It also has the East and West side halls, the "Four Halls of Scholarship (Medicine Hall, Mathematics Hall, Mizong Buddhist Sect Hall, and Scripture Recital Hall) as well as two display rooms for relics.
The halls of Yonghegong Lama Temple worshipped many Buddhist statues, Tangka (a kind of Tibetan painting) and precious relics. These include sandlewood sculpture of the Five Hundred Arhat (Luohan) Mountain, golden nanmu sculpture of the Buddha niche and the 18-m high sandlewood Buddha statue. The Buddha statue was listed in the Guinness Book of Records in 1910. Among the collection, many were precious gifts presented by the Tibetan elite and senior monks to the Emperor since the 16th century. They are well preserved and have very high historical and artistic value.
Let’s tour around…
One of my favorite things to do at temples is people watching. I can watch these people worship all day long.
Though it’s hard and maybe impolite to get too close with a camera, I did manage to capture a bit of the special atmosphere…
Definitely one of the temple highlights in Beijing and a wonderful Hutong area. If you enjoy temples, do not miss this one.