Beijing's Top 10 : Lama Temple (Yonghegong)

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Beijing’s most spectacular place of worship is also the most famous Buddhist temple outside of Tibet. It has five main halls, as well as some stunning statuary. The path through the Lama Temple proceeds from south to north – from earth to heaven.

  • 12 Yonghe Gong Dajie

  • 6404 4499

  • Subway: Yonghe Gong

  • Open: Apr–Oct 9am–4.30pm daily. Nov–Mar 9am–4pm daily

  • Admission: ¥25

  • Audio guides are available for ¥20 (plus ¥200 deposit)


Panchen Lama

While the Dalai Lama, head of the sect to which the Lama Temple belongs, lives in exile, the second head, the Panchen Lama, resides in Beijing. In contrast to the Dalai Lama, the Panchen recognizes Chinese authority. However, the matter of the true identity of the Panchen Lama is a matter of controversy. China supports one candidate, while the Tibetans recognize another – only he vanished in suspicious circumstances in 1995.

Imperial dragon decoration

There are various snack kiosks inside the Lama Temple, but it is a better idea to bring your own refreshments.

Photography is not allowed within the halls, but you can take pictures of the exteriors and of the courtyards.

Top 10 Features
  1. Monks

    At one time there were 1,500 monks at the temple, now there are only 70. Although of the same Yellow Hat sect as the Dalai Lama the monks are required to reject Tibetan independence.

  2. Drum and Bell Towers

    The temple’s Drum and Bell towers are in the first courtyard after passing through the main entrance. The huge bell has been removed from its tower and placed on the ground.

  3. Hall of the Heavenly Kings

    The first hall has a plump laughing Buddha, Milefo, back-to-back with Wei Tuo, the Guardian of Buddhist Doctrine. They are flanked by the Four Heavenly Kings.

  4. Hall of Eternal Harmony

    This, the second hall, contains three manifestations of Buddha. These represent the past, present, and future, and are flanked by 18 luohan – those freed from the cycle of rebirth.

  5. Hall of Eternal Protection

    The third hall contains Buddhas of longevity and medicine. It also has two famous tangkas, said to have been embroidered by Emperor Qianlong’s mother. Behind the hall is a bronze sculpture of Mount Meru, the center of the Buddhist universe.

  6. Hall of the Wheel of Dharma

    Hall four has a 20-foot (6-m) high statue of Tsongkhapa, the 14th-century founder of the Yellow Hat sect of Buddhism. Dominant in Tibetan politics for centuries, the sect is led by the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama.

  7. Hall of Ten Thousand Happinesses

    The final pavilion houses an 80-foot (25-m) high Buddha carved from a single piece of sandalwood. There’s a splendid collection of Tibetan Buddhist objects in a room behind the hall.

  8. Prayer Wheel

    Spinning a prayer wheel sends a prayer written on coiled paper to heaven. A little yellow arrow taped to the frame of the wheel reminds worshipers which direction (clock-wise) to spin the wheel.

  9. Incense Burner

    There are incense burners in front of all the many altars throughout the temple. Shops lining the entryway to the complex and in the neighboring streets are piled with bundles of incense sticks for sale for use at the temple.

  10. Lion Statue

    A large imperial lion is a reminder that the complex was originally the residence of the man who would become Qing emperor Yongzheng. On ascending the throne in 1722, and in keeping with tradition, his former home became a temple.

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