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Yonghe Lama Temple — The Biggest Tibetan Buddhist Temple in Beijing

In the northeast of central Beijing, the biggest Tibetan Buddhist temple in Beijing is a popular worship place for locals. With 300 years of history, Yonghe Lama Temple has three world-record masterpieces.

Quick Facts

  • Chinese: 雍和宫Yōnghé Gōng /yong-her gong/ ‘Harmony Temple’
  • Must sees: the three Guinness World Record items (the largest wooden Buddha; the bronze Buddhas of past, present, and future; and the 500-Arhat-Hill) Tibetan architecture, Chinese sacrificial and blessing activities
  • Suited to: history lovers, Chinese culture lovers, Architectural enthusiasts
  • Size: 6.6 ha (16 ac, or 3 NY city blocks)
  • Time needed: 1–2 hours
the Yonghe Lama TempleThe Yonghe Lama Temple

Highlights

  • Visit the palace of Prince Yongzheng (1678–1735) of the Qing Dynasty.
  • See thelargest sandalwood carved Buddha in the world.
  • Experience the locals’ favorite worship place and how they burn incense to Buddha.
  • Listen to the chanting of the monks.
  • Enjoy its convenience for food or hutong (ancient alley area) tours.

History

  • 1694: It was built as the Royal Court of Prince Yongzheng.
  • 1722: Elevated to imperial palace status when Yongzheng became emperor for short stays away from the Forbidden City, its name was changed to Palace of Eternal Peace (Yōnghé Gōng).
  • 1744:It became an official Tibetan Buddhist temple, and became the Beijing office of Tibetan Buddhist affairs, run by the Qing government.
  • 1949: Yonghe Temple was declared a national monument.
  • 1966: It was closed for the Cultural Revolution.
  • 1981:It was reopened to the public as a Tibetan temple for tourism and worship.
  • The Layout of Yonghe Lama Temple

    There are five main buildings separated by courtyards. Building heights reduce from south (the gate hall) to north

    • The Gate Hall of Harmony and Peace(Yōng hé mén Dà diàn)
    • The Hall of Harmony and Peace (Yōnghé Gōng)
    • The Hall of Everlasting Protection (Yōngyòu Diàn)
    • The Hall of the Wheel of the Law (Fǎlún Diàn)
    • The Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happiness (Wànfú Gé)
      • The Gate Hall of Harmony and Peace

        The Gate Hall of Harmony and Peace The Gate Hall of Harmony and Peace

        It has all the traits of a grand Chinese Buddhist temple entrance. There are two lifelike bronze lions sitting in front of the hall, which give people a sense of seriousness, before they cross the threshold.

        In the middle of the hall, there is the statue of Buddha Maitreya seated on a golden lacquer throne. It is also called the Palace of the Heavenly Kings, as, on both sides of the hall, stand statues of the Four Kings of Heaven.

        The Kings of Heaven are sculpted stepping on demons, which indicates that the Kings of Heaven have suppressed evil spirits and have the duty of protecting the world.

        The Hall of Harmony and Peace

        It is the main hall of the Temple, formerly known as the Yin’an Hall. It was where Prince Yongzheng met with government officials. It was later converted to a lama temple, which is simialr to the Gate Hall of Harmony and Peace.

        The Hall of Harmony and PeaceThe Hall of Harmony and Peace

        Three 2-meter-high bronze Buddha statues stand in the north of the hall. These three Buddhas represent the past, present and future:

        • Central: the statue of the Gautama Buddha (Buddha of the Present)
        • Right: the statue of Kasyapa Matanga (Buddha of the Past)
        • Left: the Maitreya Buddha (Buddha of the Future)

        Along the two sides of the wall stand the 18 Arhats. In Chinese folklore, they represent protection. A mural depicts Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, blessings, and fertility in China.

        The Hall of Everlasting ProtectionThe Hall of Everlasting Protection

        The Hall of Everlasting Protection

        The Hall of Everlasting Protection seems like five buildings from the outside, though it is actually five pairs of buildings, each pair joined together.

        It used to be the living quarters of Prince Yongzheng. Later, it become a hall of prayer. When emperors died, their coffins would be temporarily store there. Monks would pray for them and then bury them. So, the name of this hall refers to prayers of everlasting protection prayed over dead emperors.

        Today, there is a statue of the Bhaisajya Guru (the ‘Medicine Buddha’) in this hall, who represents protection and healing in China’s Buddhist culture.

        The Hall of the Wheel of the Law

        The Hall of the Wheel of the LawThe Hall of the Wheel of the Law

        Here the cultures of Han Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism meet.

        A bronze Buddha sits on the huge lotus stage at the middle of the hall, 6.1 meters high. With a smiling face, he is the founder of Geluk Tibetan Buddhism, Je Tsongkhapa.

        Behind is the second of the three unique, world-record-holding, treasures of the Lama Temple. About 5 meters high, 3.5 meters wide and 30 cm thick, the red sandalwood Five Hundred Arhat Hill carving has Arhat statues made from gold, silver, copper, iron, and tin.

        The Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses

        The Pavilion of Ten Thousand HappinessThe Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses

        The 25-meter-high Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses is sometimes referred to as "The Hall of Boundless Happinesses". There is a gantry connecting the two halls of this pavilion, built in 1056 with architecture from the Liao Dynasty (907–1125).

        The statue of Buddha Maitreya in the hall, carved from one precious white sandalwood log from Nepal, is the biggest wooden buddha in the world. 18 meters high above ground, and 8 meters deep below ground, the Buddha's body is 26 meters high and 8 meters wide. The seventh Dalai Lama gifted Emperor Qianlong with the sandal wood in the 1750s.

        Festivals Held at Yonghe Temple

        Dayuan Invocation Dharma Assembly (February/March)

        Dayuan Invocation Dharma Assembly is one of the most important festivals of Tibetan Buddhism. It commemorates Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism. During the Dayuan Invocation, monks will chant scriptures to pray for a peaceful year.

        New Year Ceremony Dharma AssemblyNew Year Ceremony Dharma Assembly

        This week-long festival is held in the period mid-February to mid-March (from the 23th of the first lunar month to the 1st of the second month).

        New Year Ceremony Dharma Assembly (January/February)

        Monks of the Temple get up and go to the temple at 2am on the first day of China’s New Year, chanting till the sun comes up. On this day, many people flock into the temple to pray for the coming year.

        This festival falls in the period from January 21 to February 20 according to the Chinese lunar calendar

        Travel Essentials

        • Address:12 Yonghong Street, Dongcheng District (12雍和宫大街东城区)
        • Open: November 1 – March 31, 9am–4pm; April 1 – October 31, 9am–4:30pm

        Because it is the most popular place to go for a blessing in Beijing, at traditional Chinese festivals or days before important examinations, there will be a lot of locals coming to burn incense and pray for good luck — good opportunities for you to experience the Buddhist culture of China.

        Nearby Confucian Attractions

        Confucian AttractionsBeijing's Confucian Attractions

        Contrast two pillars of Chinese culture: compare Confucianism here with Buddhism at Yonghe Temple.

        Beijing Imperial Academy: About 300 meters from Yonghe Temple, GuózǐJiàn was the national central institute of learning in imperial China, the highest institute of learning in China's traditional educational system.

        Confucius Temple: right next to the Confucian Imperial Academy is one of the best Confucian temples in Beijing.

        Tours for Enjoying Yonghe Temple

        We provide one of the best tailor-made tour services in China, and can tailor the Lama Temple and any other attractions you want into your Beijing tour. With our expert and experienced tour guides and comfortable private transport, all you need to do is enjoy the tour!

        Click here for your tailor-made tour plan.