Lama Temple, also called Yonghe Palace, is the largest and best preserved lamasery, or Buddhist monastery, in Beijing. Constructed in 1964, it once was the residence of Emperor Yongzheng (the third emperor of the Qing dynasty). After the death of Emperor Yongzheng, it was converted into lamasery in 1744, and thus Yonghe Palace became the national center of Tibetan Buddhist teaching.
Occupying an area of more than 16 acres (66,400 square meters), Lama Temple is comprised of torii (shrine gateways), the Grand Hall, Yongyou Hall, Falun Hall and the Hall of Boundless Happiness. It is dotted with screen walls with carved murals and decorated archways. The interior pavement leads to the main halls. The evergreen pine and cypress trees add to the peaceful and secluded atmosphere. The Yonghe Palace with the distinct ethnic characteristics of the Manchurian, Han, Mongolian, and Tibetan peoples holds a special place in Chinese culture.
The following details describe the main buildings inside Lama Temple.
At the south courtyard stand three tall monuments, a huge screen wall, and two stone lions. Passing through monuments, a pavement path leads to Zhaotai Gate (the gate of Lama Palace) in the north. Inside the gate stand Bell Tower and Drum Tower on both sides. A huge copper pan by the side of Drum Tower weighs 8 tons which was used to cook La Ba Congee (eaten on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month). To the north is an octagonal tablet which outlines the history of Lama Temple.
Grand Hall once was the place which was used to receive civil and military officials. In the north of the hall stand three, 2-meter-high sculptures of the Buddha: Sakyamuni (“Buddha the teacher”, Medicine Guru Buddha, and Amida (“celestial”) Buddha. North of Grand Hall is Yongyou Hall which is where the lamas read scriptures and holding Buddhist ceremonies. In the center of the hall is a Buddha which was carved out of sandalwood.
In the center of Falun Hall is an 18-foot (6.1 meter) Buddha which is the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Tsongkhapa. This bronze statue was completed in 1924 and cost 200,000 silver dollars. Behind the Tsongkhapa is an Arhat Hill containing 500 Arhats (an Arhat being someone who has achieved the goal of religious life, attaining Nirvana) all elaborately carved out of padauk.
There is another spectacle in Hall of Boundless Happiness, i.e. the sculpture of Maitreya that is 59 feet (18 meters) high and about 26 feet (8 meters) below the ground.
Today, the Lama Palace is an important heritage site under state protection.
Admission Fee: 25RMB
Open Time: 9:00 – 16:30