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       Yonghe Lama Temple
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Beijing Tour Guide: Yonghe Lama Temple

Beijing's most famous Buddhist temple


Yonghegong Lama Temple, located in the northeast of Beijing's city center, is also known as the "Palace of Peace and Harmony Lama Temple.'' Construction of the Temple began in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty. Originally, it served as the official residence for court eunuchs but it was converted into the court of Prince Yong (Yin Zhen), after Yongzheng's ascension as Emperor. After Yong Zheng's ascension to the Imperial throne, half of the complex was converted into a Tibetan monastery. The Qianlong Emperor, Yongzheng's successor, granted the temple the status of and imperial palace by having its turquoise tiles replaced with yellow tiles (yellow tiles were traditionally reserved for emperors). In 1744, it became a residence for Tibetan Buddhist monks from Mongolia and Tibet, becoming the most renowned Tibetan Buddhist Temple in China outside of Tibet.

The main building is the Hall of Harmony and Peace (Mahavira Hall or DaXiongBaoDian). It houses three bronze statues of the Mahavira Buddha sculptures of the Three Ages. A statue of Gautama Buddha (Buddha of the Present, also called Sakyamuni) is in the middle. Kasyapa Matanga statue (Buddha of the Past) and Maitreya Buddha statue (Buddha of the Future) stand on the right and left side respectively. Along the sides of the hall, 18 Arhat statues are placed. The 18 Arhats are the disciples of Samkyamuni. On the western wall is a mural showing the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara.

Hall of the Wheel of the Law (FalunDian), with 5 gilded pagodas, functions as a place for reading sutras and conducting religious ceremonies. It houses a 6m tall bronze statue of Tsong Khapa, founder of the Geluk (Yellow Hat) School of Buddhism. The hall also houses a carving made of red sandalwood with 500 arhat statues made from five different metals - gold, silver, copper, iron and tin.

Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happiness displays a gigantic (18m) statue of the Maitreya Buddha carved from a single piece of White Sandalwood. This statue is one of three artworks in the temple that were included in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1993.

Today, there are still at least 130 lamas living in the temple.


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