Yonghe Gong Temple also known as Lama Temple is the most renowned Tibetan Buddhist Temple outside Tibet. Built during the Qing Dynasty in 17th century, the temple is an active place of worship. It surprisingly escaped the destruction during the Cultural Revolution and today it draws thousands of pilgrims and tourists. It is the most important of all Beijing temples.
Visit to Lama Temple
I decided to spend few hours in the Lama Temple. The buzz started on the street approaching to the temple. Blaring Buddhist hymns on stereos muffled the noise from vehicular cacophony. The street outside the Lama Temple is lined with shops selling Buddhist prayer beads, Buddhist charms, incense sticks and DVDs of Buddhist chants. I was already transported into the land of Buddhism.
Atmosphere inside the temple
The striking ornate gate at the entrance
was evident of the exuberance which lie beyond. The smoke and dizzying smell of incense are the first thing i noticed as i entered in the serene compound.
The administrative office window distributes free incense sticks to every visitor. I stocked up on my share of incense sticks and went from one hall to the other offering prayers as the others. Being a Buddhist myself, i could connect with the faith and overall pious serenity.
Interiors of Lama Temple
The temple has five main prayer halls. The halls are decorated with Buddha statues in various poses. Three larges statues representing the past, present and the future Buddhas adorn the second prayer hall. The large statue of Maitreya Buddha dominates the fifth and the last prayer hall. The statue holds a Guinness record for being the largest statue carved out a single piece of white sandalwood. Thangka scrolls with intricate embroideries, fine murals and mandala paintings decorating the walls of the prayer halls left me in awe as i passed through one prayer hall to the next. Most of these decorations are believed to be from early Qing Dynasty.
It was fascinating to spend time in the atmospheric Yonghe Gong Temple complex covered with dense clouds of incense smoke. Every nook and corner offered great photo opportunities. The monks clad in red robes passing through prayer halls were vying for my attention. So were the devotees spinning the prayer wheels. I was treading on a thin line, balancing the privacy of worshippers against my strong instinct of documenting this marvelous experience.
Yonghe Gong Temple was a sheer visual delight. Observing the Buddhist ritual in richly decorated prayer halls has left a lasting impression!
I finally conclude that the Lama Temple is a must visit in Beijing, even if you have time to visit just one temple. Read more about Things to do in Beijing.
Visit Fangia Hutong and other ancient living quarters in Beijing located around the Lama temple.