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12 Yong He Gong Da Jie (Dongcheng)
(86) 010-6404-4499 | www.yonghegong.cn
POPULAR TIMESWeekends; Buddhist festivals
RESERVE IN ADVANCENo
WAIT TIME WITHOUT RESERVATIONNone
HIGHLIGHTSMaitreya Buddha; prayer wheels
METROAndingmen; Yonghegong (Lama Temple)
Back in the day (“the day” being 1694), before the Lama Temple became the center of Lamaist study and administration in China, it was just a cushy hangout for a young emperor-in-waiting. Once crowned, the Yongzheng Emperor moved over to the decidedly more resplendent Forbidden City and magnanimously donated his palace to the teaching of Tibetan Buddhism. Thus, the Lama Temple is set up in the traditional Chinese style for a private courtyard house, with a long chain of halls running north to south–though later additions like tall bronze incense burners, prayer wheels, colorful Tibetan and Manchu religious artworks, and the presence of over 200 resident monks have changed the originally imposing vibe to a vibrant, reflective, spiritual one. The highlight of the temple is the magnificent sandalwood statue of Maitreya Buddha, carved from a single piece of wood and standing over 26 meters tall.
GO HERE WITH
A friend; yourself
WHY WE LIKE IT
The spiritual ambiance and beautiful architecture. We could happily spend many tranquil hours watching the fragrant smoke curl up from the massive incense burners, listening to the monks chant their sutras, and rubbing the well-worn carvings on the intricate prayer wheels.
WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE
Noisy tourists not respecting the sanctity of the space.
GOOD TO KNOW
No indoor photography is allowed, but there’s definitely plenty to photograph outside. One for the pub quiz: the Maitreya Buddha made it into the Guiness Book of World Records in 1993 as the largest statue of Buddha carved from a single piece of wood.
Read more about Lama Temple in The Diary
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