Though Tibetan Buddhist temples are the main characteristic of Tibet, Lama Temple (雍和宫; Yōnghé Gōng) in Beijing is one of the most famous and maybe one of the most important temples of this kind. If you can’t visit Tibet this is the place where you can feel the spirit of Buddhism and Tibet. It is working temple and there are usually many monks, worshippers, and tourists, so it can get crowded. However, that don’t spoil too much serene atmosphere that can be found in this temple.
Dating from the Qing Dynasty, it occupies an area of 66,400 square meters. It was initially built as a palace for the prince Yin Zhen in 1694, but after he succeeded the throne in 1723, he renamed its old residence into the Palace of Harmony. He did not just change the purpose of the palace, but also its interior and some of the architecture feature, so he replaced the green ceramic tiles with the yellow ones, symbolizing the imperial color.
Emperor Qianlong converted palace into the Lamasery in 1744. When you enter the temple, you will immediately notice that its composition and decoration preserved the characteristics of the imperial palaces and villas of the Qing Dynasty and at the same time they reflect the architectural styles of Han and Tibetan nationalities. The temple is made up of three parts – the garden, the group of pavilions and decorative gates with glittering tiles. In the garden you can go through the same path the emperors of the Qing Dynasty went when they gave sacrifices to their ancestors. Along the way, the roads of colorful flowers are made, and also the specific pavilions which served as buildings where Lamas read holy books. You will also have a chance to see the magnificent gilded pavilions with beautiful eaves with carved dragons and clouds.
Visitors can see a variety of terracotta figures and observe their laughter, joy, sadness or anger. There you can also see a bronze statue of the founder of Lamaism Zunkapea and chairs that were used by Dalai Lama the 14th and Panchen Lama the 10th when preaching. Besides that, some other major artworks can also be found, such as Five Hundred Arhat Hill – a carving made of red sandalwood, three bronze statues of the Buddha of the Three Ages, and a 26m tall White Sandalwood statue of the Maitreya Buddha. There are five main halls within the temple, the Hall of the Heavenly Kings, the Hall of Harmony and Peace, the Hall of the Dharma Wheel, the Hall of Everlasting Blessings, and the Pavilion of Infinite Happiness, and each of them is separated by the courtyard.
One free incense is included in a ticket if you would like to burn it.