At the north-eastern side of Beijing is China’s largest and most perfectly preserved imperial temple – The Lama Temple or Yonghe Temple. This temple was established in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty. Prince Yong used the temple as his residence and after his death his coffin was placed in one of the halls. His successor, the Qianlong Emperor thereafter granted imperial status to the temple – which is seen by the replacing of its turquoise blue tiles with the Emperor Status yellow ones. The temple then gradually became a residence centre for Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhist monks.
The entire architecture is based along a north to south axis with 5 main halls and courtyards. Each of these halls are in succeeding height order with the last being the highest. The temple boasts of Mongolian, Manchurian, Tibetan and Han influences.
The Hall of the Heavenly Kings marks the entrance to the other halls and contains the statues of the 4 Divine Kings.
The Hall of Harmony and Peace consists of the images of the 3 Buddhas of the 3 ages – Kasyapa Matanga ( Buddha of the past), Sakyamuni (Buddha of the present), and Maitreya (Buddha of the future).
Next is the Hall of Everlasting Blessings, which the Prince Yong used as his residence. This hall now carries a green tara and white tara depiction, the former of which is unusual given its make consisting of 4000 silk pieces.
The lamas read their sutras and hold ceremonies in the Hall Of The Dharma Wheel, which also consists of a structure of the founder of the Tibetan Buddhist Yellow Hat Sect.
The last hall, the pavilion of Infinite Happiness is the highest and the main hall. An 18 meter high statue of Maitreya Buddha carved from a single Sandalwood tree takes pride of place and is one of the artworks to be in the Guinness Book in 1993.
These are just some of the aspects of this amazing Lamaserie and the traveller would indeed be wise to explore the rest of this monastery. Being close to the subway, this temple is easily accessible. If the traveller wishes to visit this monastery at leisure, and is looking for Beijing serviced accommodation, then a service apartment in Beijing such as the Somerset Grand Fortune Garden would be ideal, with its central location.