Located in the middle of Beijing in China, the Yonghe Temple aka Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery aka Yonghe Lamasery aka Lama Temple is a complex made up of a maze of elaborate arches, stunning tapestries and massive temples, opening to expansive courtyards filled with people praying and fragrant smoke filling the air from burning incense.
Planning your visit to the Lama Temple
CNY 25 (approx. $4) and free for children no taller than 1.2 meters (3.9 feet).
April to October from 9 am to 4:30 pm; November to March 9 am to 4 pm.
Getting There By Subway
Take Line 2 or 5 to Yonghegong (Yonghe Temple) Station, get out of the station from Exit C. Walk south about 400 meters. The temple is on the east side of the road.
Getting There By Bus
Take bus 13, 116, 117 or 684 and get off at Yonghegong Station.
The Lama Temple is considered to be the most magnificent Buddhist temple in the city and is the most renowned Tibetan Buddhist temple outside of Tibet. The complex was converted to a lamasery in 1744 after serving as the former residence of Emperor Yong Zheng
The complex is covered in detailed paintings and elaborate carvings like these doors that are the entrance to one of the main temple buildings where visitors can observe the monks chanting.
The noise of tourists and traffic is left outside the temple walls, and the air is filled with the hypnotic sounds of chanting and small, colorful prayer flags flapping in the breeze.
Large drums echo across the complex when played by the monks.
Covered passageways allow monks to move between the buildings above the crowds of tourists and worshippers.
A man sits on scaffolding repairing one of the doors of the temple.
Tibetan monks have darker robes than you see other monks in Asia wearing and wear elaborate headpieces.
On my visit I was able to move freely through the buildings — being white in Asia, I was often stopped from entering religious complexes — and observe the worshippers performing ritual prayers.
About halfway into the complex, I found myself the sole foreign observer of a large, tapestry filled temple full of monks, sitting in lines and reading from heavy looking prayer books.
The sound of their voices mixed with the heavy scented air was hypnotizing and after taking a few flash-less photos, I pressed my back into the wall, not wanting to disturb them, closed my eyes, and let myself be carried away by the sound of their voices.
The stunning Statue of Tsongkhapa is surrounded by painted pillars and elaborate tapestries that hang from the ceiling of the temple and line the walls.
Monks in their formal garb chanting — one of the most enchanting sounds I have ever heard.
Visitors can wander from temple to temple through vast red corridors — from the shadow to the light.
The Statue of the Maitreya Buddha was entered into the Guinness Book of Records in 1990 for being carved out of a single white sandalwood tree that stands an astonishing 26 metres high!