The Yonghe Lamasery is one of the oldest attractions in Beijing. Located in the north-eastern side of the city it is one of the most elegant structures. It is also the largest and best preserved lamaseries in China today.
The initial structure of this Yonghe Lamasery was built during the Qing Dynasty in 1694 and it was where Emperor Yongzheng resided when he was a prince. Later, during the Qing Dynasty in 1744, the palace was converted to a lamasery, and then it became the official administration centre for the Lama.
Today, it is one of the most explored sites in Beijing and its original architectural style still amazes its visitors. Upon arrival, visitors walk into a yard adorned with red walls and lions carved out of stone – This is the first sign of it originally being a palace of the Imperial Family. From the yard visitors may proceed to the northern Gateway where a wide strait road leads to the Zhaotaimen or the ‘Gate of Peace Declaration’.
This gate leads to another yard. And for the keen historian there are two octagonal Stele Pavilions on which the historical and traditional reasons for the transforming the palace to a monastery of the Lamas is indicated. Another interesting attraction inside the monastery is the Devaraja Hall. Also known as the Hall of the Heavenly Kings, the inner walls of this palace chamber are adorned with four statues of four powerful ‘Heavenly Kings’. The centre of the chamber is adorned by a smiling Maitreya.
Another not to be missed sight is the ancient cooking vessel made of copper. Made in 1747 this vessel boasts some of the most interesting carvings from that era and it is also known as one of the ‘three rarest things’ in Beijing for its originality and artistic value. And while you are at the monastery visit the Yonghegong to view the amazingly beautiful bronze Buddha statues: Salyamuni, Kasyapa-matanga, and Maitreya.
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