The Ultimate Guide to Lama Temple

From Emperors to Monks: Tracing the History and Culture of Lama Temple in China's Capital City

The Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism has a monastery and temple known as the Yonghe Temple, which is more commonly referred to as the Lama Temple or the Yonghe Lamasery. It is located at 12 Yonghegong Street in the Dongcheng District of Beijing, China. The Han Chinese and Tibetan styles are combined in the temple’s construction and artwork. This building houses one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in China. At the moment, the abbot is Lama Hu Xuefeng.

Yonghe Temple was home to two emperors because Emperor Qianlong was born there. It turned into the focal point of the Qing government accountable for Tibetan Buddhism issues in the nation. During the middle to late Qing Dynasty, Yonghe Temple was the country’s highest Buddhist temple.

History of the Yonge temple

During the Qing dynasty, construction of the Yonghe Temple began in 1694 on the site of the Ming dynasty’s official residence for court eunuchs. Yinzhen, also known as Prince Yong, the Kangxi Emperor’s fourth son, made it his home after that. In 1702, the Kangxi Emperor gave this building to Yinzhen, a second-rank prince at the time.

History of the Yonge temple
History of the Yonge temple

In May 1703, n moved into this building. In 1709, Yinzhen was elevated by the Kangxi Emperor to the rank of qinwang, or first-rank prince, and given the title “Prince Yong of the First Rank.” In that same year, the building’s name was changed to “the Residence of Prince Yong of the First Rank.” Hongli, the fourth son of the future Qianlong emperor Yongzheng, was born in this building’s East Academy in 1711.

In 1722, Prince Yong became the Yongzheng Emperor and furthermore, the Home of Sovereign Yong of the Principal Rank became known as the “Palace of Peace and Harmony.” From 1735 to 1737, his coffin was buried in the temple following the Yongzheng Emperor’s death in 1735. The Grand Secretariat Ortai had once suggested that Hongzhou take the Yonghe Palace as his private residence before the conversion of the lama Temple into a monastery; however, the Qianlong Emperor rejected this suggestion.

The temple was given imperial status by the Qianlong Emperor, who succeeded the Yongzheng Emperor. This was symbolized by replacing the turquoise tiles with yellow tiles that were reserved for the emperor. The Qianlong Emperor issued an edict in 1744 that turned the Palace of Peace and Harmony into a lamasery. In 1745, the Buddha-bearer was put to death.

Administration in the lama temple

The management of the Yonghegong Temple can be divided into two groups following its transformation into a monastery: management of religious affairs and administrative affairs. The Yonghe Temple is run as an imperial Tibetan Buddhist temple directly under the Qing Dynasty’s control in terms of administration.

Administration in the lama temple
Administration in the lama temple

The emperor would appoint a prince or junwang to oversee the temple’s secular operations and delegate actual management responsibilities to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Imperial Household Department. As the monk’s head, a Khenpo lama is in charge of the Yonghe Temple’s religious affairs.

The layout of the young temple

  • Bell tower
  • Imperial Carriage Pathway
  • Four-Language Stele Pavilion
  • Yongyou Hall
  • The Residence of A Jia Rinpoche
  • Buddhฤbhiแนฃeka Center
  • Memorial Archway
  • Toilet
  • Zhaotai Gate
  • Drum tower
  • West Stele Pavilion
  • East Stele Pavilion
  • West Ase Gate
  • East Ase Gate
  • Exoteric Hall
  • Esoteric Hall
  • Shilun Hall

    The layout of the young temple
    The layout of the young temple
  • Medicine Hall
  • Yonghegong Hal
  • West Side Hall
  • Este Side Hall
  • Falun Hall
  • Jietai Building
  • Panchen Building
  • Yonghe Gate Hall
  • Wanfuge Pavilion
  • Yansui Pavilion
  • Yongkang Pavilion
  • Yamudaga Building
  • Souvenir store
  • Zhaofo Building
  • Suicheng Hall
  • West Shunshan Building
  • East Shunshan Building
  • Ticket Center
  • Reception
  • Tourist Center

Architecture and artworks in the young temple

The Yonghe Temple is laid out on a northโ€“south central axis, measures 66,400 square meters in size, and has a length of 480 meters. The primary door, the Entryway of Lucidity and Success (Zhaotaimen) is at the southern finish of this hub, alongside three dedication passages toward the front. Additionally, between the front memorial archway and the Gate of Clarity and Prosperity is a path known as Niandao that was constructed for imperial carriages.

Architecture and artworks in the young temple
Architecture and artworks in the young temple

Five main halls are separated by courtyards along the axis: the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses (Wanfuge), Peace (Yonghemendian) and the Gate Hall of Harmony, Peace (Yonghegong) and the Hall of Harmony, the Hall of Everlasting Protection or Yongyoudian and the Hall of the Wheel of the Law Falundian.

The southernmost of the main halls are the Gate Hall of Harmony and Peace. Originally the palace’s main entrance, it later became the Hall of Heavenly Kings (Tianwangdian). There is a Maitreya Buddha statue in the centre of the hall, and statues of the four Heavenly Kings are arranged along the walls. In front of the Gate Hall of Peace and Harmony, two stele pavilions home the steles of the Yonghe Temple and the Discourse of Lamas.

The temple’s main structure is the Hall of Harmony and Peace. It is home to three bronze statues of the Buddhas of the Three Ages. The Buddha of the Present, Gautama Buddha, is in the centre, flanked by the Buddha of the Past, Pankara Buddha, and the Buddha of the Future, Maitreya Buddha. The 18 Arhat statues are erected along the hall’s sides. The hall’s mural depicts the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara.

As a prince, Emperor Yongzheng lived in the Hall of Everlasting Protection, where his body was buried after his death. Today, a sculpture of the Bhaisajya-master (recuperating Buddha) remains in this lobby.

Three stunning works of art

3 bronze statues of the Buddhas of the 3 Ages

Eighteen meter tall White Sandalwood statue of the Maitreya Buddha


Three stunning works of art
Three stunning works of art

Two Stels in the lama temple

Two stels made during the Qianlong Emperor’s time can be found in the lama Temple. They are written in Mongolian, Manchu, Tibetan, and Chinese. The first is the Yonghegong Stele, raised in 1744, flagging the royal residence’s change into a lama religious community. The second is The Discourse of Lama, a 1792 stele written by the Qianlong Emperor to criticize Tibetan lamas’ handling of reincarnation issues. The two styles are all around protected in the two structures before the lama Door.

Cham Dance in the young temple

The lama Temple is a Tibetan Buddhist temple with Tibetan rituals and dances. The sanctuary embraced the custom of the cham dance, or bujak in Manchu, soon after its transformation into a lama religious community. In 1746, at the Qianlong emperor’s welcome banquet, a Dzunggar envoy, there was the first evidence of cham dancing in Yonghe Temple. Since its inception, this service is performed on the fourth day of the main lunar month and each 28th day of the twelfth lunar month.

The custom was rescheduled under the Guangxu Emperor as an eight-day performance that began on the 23rd of the first lunar year and ended on the 1st of the second lunar year. The cham dance was also put on hold during the Cultural Revolution because the Yonghe Temple was closed. It didn’t come back until 1987.

Cham Dance in the young temple
Cham Dance in the young temple

Location in the lama temple

The Yonghe or lama Temple can be found in Beijing’s Dongcheng District, close to the Second Ring Road’s northeast corner. The postal location is 12 Yonghegong Dajie, Beixinqiao, Dongcheng Region, Beijing. The Forbidden City and the Yonghe Temple are about five kilometers apart, about an hour’s walk away.

Transport for the young temple

Several city buses, as well as Lines 2 and 5 of the Beijing Subway, make stops at the Yonghegong Lama Temple station.

Lama Temple hosts Buddhist events

The Lama Temple continues to play an important part in Tibetan Buddhism. To check the start of the new year, pay homage to Buddha, and honour significant figures like Panchen Lama and Tsongkhapa, several Buddhist activities will be held each year. The grandest of them all is the Great Wish Invocation Dharma Assembly and the Spring Festival Ceremony Dharma Assembly, respectively.

Dharma Assembly at the Spring Festival Ceremony

The beginning of a new year in China is marked by the first day of the first village month, which typically falls in late January or early February. In the Qing Dynasty, on this day, 36 monks from the Lama Temple would chant sutras at Zhongzheng Hall in the Forbidden City.

Dharma Assembly at the Spring Festival Ceremony
Dharma Assembly at the Spring Festival Ceremony

Today, the monks get up at two in the morning and head to the main hall to read the Palden Lhamo Sutra and the Yamantaka Sutra until dawn. After that, they cross the yards to Falun Hall, where they pray for peace and prosperity for the country and its people by chanting sutras, accompanied by the deep bell sound. People will pour into Lama Temple on this day to show their respect for Buddha. They will walk around the temple, light the incense, and fervently pray before the Buddha.

Dharma Assembly Invocation of a Great Wish

The Great Wish Invocation Dharma Assembly is a significant Gelug sect festival. In honour of Sakyamuni, the renowned Tsongkhapa held this Dharma Assembly in 1409 at the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. Since then, it was held annually and became routine. This activity was introduced to Beijing during the Kangxi Period of the Qing Dynasty, which lasted from 1662 to 1722, and the imperial court supported it.

The Lama Temple began hosting this annual gathering as a royal monastery. The Great Wish Invocation Dharma Assembly occurs sometime between the middle of February and the middle of March and commences on the 23rd day of the first lunar month and continues until the first day of the second lunar month. Religious dances will be performed on the last day of the festival, the 29th day of the first lunar month, to expel evil spirits.

Dharma Assembly Invocation of a Great Wish
Dharma Assembly Invocation of a Great Wish

Fascination around Lama Sanctuary

There is still some distance between the Lama Temple and other popular tourist destinations like Tian’anmen lama Square, the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City, among others. On the off chance that you have some extra time in the wake of visiting the Lama Sanctuary, the close by Confucius Sanctuary is a prescribed spot to go.

You can easily walk to Confucius Temple because it is only 200 meters to the west of Lama Temple. The greatest philosopher and educator in China’s history is regarded as Confucius. As the name demonstrates, Confucius Sanctuary is where Confucius was venerated in the Yuan and Qing Administrations.

The main structures of the temple are arranged along the central axis, covering a total area of 22,000 square meters. 51,624 Jinshi’s names, birthplaces, and ranks are carved into a group of stone tablets from each of the three dynasties. You can glean some significant experience about this holy person and his speculations here.

Confucius Temple

Start Opening: 8:30 – 17:00

Entrance Fee: 30 CNY

Fascination around Lama Sanctuary
Fascination around Lama Sanctuary

The Best Hotels Near Lama Temple

  • Nostalgia Hotel Beijing Yonghe Lama Temple
  • Ascott Raffles City Beijing
  • Artyzen Habitat Dongzhimen Beijing
  • Nostalgia Hotel Beijing Confucius Temple
  • Peking Yard Youth Hostel
  • The Classic Courtyard
  • Qianyuan International Business Hotel
  • Beijing 161 LeZaiNanluo Boutique Hotel
  • James Joyce Coffetel Beijing Gulou
  • Oriental Garden Hotel

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