The Lama Temple, dedicated to the Tibetan branch of Buddhism is always a must-visit attraction for visitors to the Chinese capital Beijing. Featuring vibrantly colourful 17th century design elements the place of worship functions as an active centre of Tibetan Buddhism.
This shrine, called Yong He Gong in the local dialect, was originally constructed in 1694 as the palatial residence of a Chinese prince. When this prince later attained the imperial throne and moved to the exclusive Forbidden City the building, asper the royal custom, was turned into a temple and refurbished with yellow tiles, the imperial hue.
The site became a functional lamasery in the year 1744, serving as an accommodation for Tibetan and Inner Mongolian Buddhist monks. Interestingly the temple once served as the venue for the election of the Living Buddha of Mongolia, who was selected by drawing lots from a golden urn.
The temple is always an attractive place to visit, featuring a series of buildings, each taller than the previous one, embellished with elaborate yellow coloured tile roofs. The famed Yonghe Gate is dated to the final years of the 17th century and displays figures of heavenly guardians. Within you will see courtyards, prayer halls and numerous attractively designed incense burners.
The expansive Falun Dian Hall features a huge figure and a number of artworks of the founder of the dominant Yellow Hat sect of the well-known Tibetan Buddhism, Tsongkapa. Several thrones may be seen near the figure, which were where the revered Dalai Lamas sat when they came to the shrine to instruct and teach.
However the grandest of the central halls is the lofty Wanfu Ge, which contains the temple’s most prized feature, the immense Tibetan-themed statue of the Buddha to come, Maitreya which stands an imposing 18 metres tall. This statue was a splendid gift from a past Dalai Lama to the Emperor Qianlong. This amazing statue is formed of a single block of white Tibetan sandalwood which took no less than three years to transport to Beijing.
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