Basic information About Lama Temple
Lama Temple, also called Yonghe Temple or Yonghe Lamasery, is a national key Buddhist temple in the Han nationality area. The buildings are a combination of Han and Tibetan styles. Here you can learn more about Tibetan Buddhism while appreciating the excellent architectures, impressive Buddha statues, and scriptures in 4 languages.
Type: Temple, History Museum, Religion, Culture
Best Seasons: All year round
Recommended Visiting Time: 1-2 hours
Opening Hours: 9:00 - 16:30 (Apr. - Oct.); 9:00 - 16:00 (Nov. - Mar.)
Tickets: CNY 25
Address: #12 Yonghegong Street, Dongcheng District
The Lama Temple, also known as Yonghe Temple, Yonghe Lamasery, or Yonghe Lama Temple, is located in central Beijing. The Lama temple is the biggest Tibetan Buddhist temple in Beijing, which is also a popular worship place for locals.
Since it was converted from a royal palace to a Tibetan Buddhist temple by the Qianlong emperor (r. 1735–96) in the Qing Dynasty, the lama temple has been one of the most influential Tibetan Buddhism temples in China. It is today not only a museum of Tibetan Buddhism but also a functioning temple where people pray.
The five magnificent main halls with their side halls, Buddhist sculptures, stone carvings, and tablets in different languages are the highlights of Lama Temple. The halls below are introduced in a location order from south to north.
Gate Hall of Harmony and Peace used to be the entrance of Yonghe Temple, then later was reconstructed as Hall of Heavenly Kings (天王殿). A vivid bronze lion is guarding the gate. In the middle of the hall, you will see the statue of Maitreya with a smiling face sitting on a golden-lacquered carved with dragons. Behind the Maitreya is the armed Skanda, a protector of Buddhist monasteries. On the two sides of the hall, there are statues of Four Heavenly Kings (four gods in Buddhism that guard the north, west, east, and south of the world) stepping on monsters, showing their duty in suppressing evil spirits and protecting the world. In the north of Yonghe Gate Hall stands the Imperial Stele Pavilion. There is a stone tablet called The Discourse of Lama written by Emperor Qianlong and inscribed in Manchu, Han, Mongolian, and Tibetan languages.
Hall of Harmony and Peace, formerly known as Yin'an Hall, used to be the place where Prince Yong met officials. After being converted to Lama Temple, it was equivalent to the Great Buddha's Hall of general monasteries. In the due north of the hall are 3 bronze Buddha as high as 2m. They are: Shakyamuni Buddha (the Buddha of the Present) in the middle, Dipamkara Buddha (the Buddha of the Past) on the left, and Maitreya Buddha (the Buddha of the future) on the right. These 3 Buddha indicate that Buddhism has a long history and life span from the ancient past to the infinite future. Avalokitesvara (the goddess of mercy) is worshipped in the northeast and a standing statue of Maitreya is in the northwest. In the courtyard in front of Yonghegong Hall, there is a 1.5m tall bronze Sumeru. It is a famous mountain in ancient Indian mythology and is said to be the center of the world. In Buddhism, Sumeru is the highest mountain and also where Sakyamuni preaches.
When Prince Yong lived in Yonghe Temple, Hall of Everlasting Protection was his study and bedroom. Then it became a place to enshrine the late emperors of the Qing Dynasty. Yongyou Hall seems like consisting of five rooms looking from the outside, but actually each one of the five is combined with two rooms. So there are 10 rooms in total. In the center of the hall, there are three 2.35m tall sandalwood statues, which are the Buddha of Immeasurable Life (Amitabha) in the middle, Bhaisajya Guru (Medicine Buddha) on the left and Simhanada Buddha (a kind of powerful and noble Buddha) on the right.
Hall of the Wheel of the Law is the quintessence of Han and Tibetan cultures. In the middle of the hall, a smiling 6.1-meter-high bronze Buddha sits on a huge lotus-shaped terrace. It is Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Yellow Hat (Gelug) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Built in 1924, it took 200,000 silver kuping taels (worth about $5 million US Dollars in 2015) and two years to finish the work. Behind the statue is the Mountain of 500 Arhats, which is known as one of the three greatest woodcarvings in Lama Temple. It is nearly 5 meters high, 3.5 meters long and 30 centimeters thick. The whole mountain body is carved from rosewood, on which are 500 arhats made of gold, silver, copper, iron and tin in different postures.
Out of Falun Hall is the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happiness, which is 25 meters high and has three storeies. Yongkang Pavilion and Yansui Pavilion are on its two sides connected by overhead corridors. In the hall, a giant Maitreya Buddha stands upright. It is carved by a whole 26m precious white sandalwood tree which is a tribute gift from the 7th Dalai Lama. The Buddha is 8 meters wide and 18 meters high (the other 8m of the tree is underground). It is said that Emperor Qianlong spent 80,000 silver kuping taels (worth about $2 million US Dollars in 2015) in carving the Buddha. It is also one of the three greatest woodcarvings in Lama Temple. The other one is in the Zhaofo Building in front of Wanfuge Pavilion. It is a Buddha niche made of stale-proof Nanmu (a kind of valuable Chinese wood) and carved with 99 lifelike dragons in an openwork technique.
There are three treasures in this temple: the largest sandalwood Buddha in the world, the bronze Buddhas of past, present, and future, and the 500-Arhat-Hill.
The lama temple is a "blessed land". Both the Yongzheng Emperor (1678–1735) and the Qianlong Emperor were born there, and it is the only Tibetan Buddhism temple roofed with yellow glazed tiles (the imperial color), which showed it had the highest status as a lamasery in Beijing under the Qing Dynasty.
The Lama Temple played an important role in both religion and politics. Politically, the Lama Temple was the link and bridge between the central government of the Qing Dynasty and the local government of Tibet. Religiously, as a high-status place for religious activities, the Lama Temple spread Tibetan Buddhist culture.
It was built in 1694 during the early Qing Dynasty as the Royal Court of Prince Yinzhen. When Prince Yinzhen became the Yongzheng Emperor in 1722, as he was obsessed with Tibetan Buddhism from an early age, he ordered half of his Royal Court be turned into a house of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
In 1725, the remaining half of his Royal Court burnt down unexpectedly, so the house of the Gelug Sect that was left was appointed as an imperial palace outside the Forbidden City, and it was named Palace of Eternal Peace (Yonghe Gong).
After the death of the Yongzheng Emperor, the Qianlong Emperor ordered the reconstruction of Yonghe Gong in memory of his father the Yongzheng Emperor. In 1744, Yonghe Gong was converted into an official Tibetan Buddhist temple (the Lama Temple) and became the Beijing office of Tibetan Buddhist affairs, run by the Qing government.
Lama Temple is located at #12 Yonghegong Street, Dongcheng District (北京市东城区雍和宫大街12号), within 2nd Ring Road, near the northeastern corner of Dongcheng District.
From Tian'anmen Square (Beijing Center): about 6km, 30 minutes’ drive
From the Forbidden City: about 5km, 25 minutes’ drive
From the Temple of Heaven: about 7km, 40 minutes’ drive
From the Summer Palace: about 19km, 45 minutes’ drive
From Beijing South Railway Station: about 18km, 40 minutes’ drive
From Beijing Capital International Airport: about 25km, 50 minutes’ drive
Located in the downtown area, Lama Temple is easily accessible both by subway and by bus.
Subway: Take Line 2 or Line 5 and get off at Yonghegong Station (雍和宫站)
Bus: Take Bus 13, 684 to Guozijian Station (国子监站); or take Bus 116, 117 to Yonghegong Station (雍和宫站); or take Bus 18, 62, 606, 909, 44, 800, 858 to Yonghegongqiao Dong Station (雍和宫桥东站)
There is still some distance between Lama Temple and other tourist sites like Tian’anmen Square, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, etc. If you still have some spare time after visiting the Lama Temple, the nearby Confucius Temple is a recommended place to go.
Opening hours: 8:30 - 17:00 (throughout the year)
Entrance Fee: CNY 30
Confucius Temple is only 200m to the west of Lama Temple, so you can easily walk there. Confucius (551 – 479 B.C.) is considered as the greatest philosopher and educator in China’s history. As the name indicates, Confucius Temple is a place where Confucius was worshipped in the Yuan (A.D. 1271 - 1368), Ming (A.D. 1368 - 1644) and Qing Dynasties (A.D. 1644 - 1911). The temple covers an area of 22,000 square meters with the main buildings distributed along the central axis. Here you can learn a lot about this saint and his theories, and there is a group of stone tablets carved with 51,624 names, birthplaces and ranks of Jinshi (a title granted to the advanced scholars) in the three dynasties.
It only needs about 2 hours or less to look around the Lama Temple and it can be easily reached. So you can arrange it either in the morning or in the afternoon according to your own schedule, for example, you can go there after you visit Tian’anmen Square and Forbidden City. Lama Temple is only one attraction in Beijing. To enrich your Beijing tour, you can add another day to the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven. If you have more days, you can go for an in-depth Great Wall hiking or photography tour, and explore more hidden attractions in Beijing city.
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