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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

No. 54: Yonghe Gong Temple, Beijing

The Longevity Buddha (长寿佛) is in a pagoda (塔) inside a hall
(殿) at Yonghegong ("Lama")  Temple (雍和宫), Beijing (北京)
Beijing's Yonghe Gong--"The Palace of Peace and Harmony"--is nothing short of stunning. Set in the midst of the city on a huge piece of land (nearly a half-kilometer in length) it can absorb thousands of visitors and still maintain its signature atmosphere of tranquility.

Largest and grandest of several Tibetan-style temples in the capital, it is a seat for the Yellow Hat (Geluk) School. Familiarly called the "Lama Temple," it is, and historically has been, home to hundreds of lamas (monks) from Tibet and Mongolia since its designation as a temple in the 18th century. Prior to that, it was a palace indeed, home to the future Emperor Yongzheng.

In addition to the buildings which portray a blend of Tibetan and Han architectural styles, and the typically creepy (to my eye) statues of Tibetan deities, the temple also has several outstanding, unique features.

Most notable, perhaps, is the colossal statue of Maitreya (the Buddha of the future) located near the back of the grounds. Carved from a single piece of wood 26 meters long, only 18 meters appears above ground. The other eight are used to root it in the earth. Its size earned it certification by the world-famous Guinness Book of Records back in 1990.

Other features are a unique pink-petaled "lotus throne" on which several Buddhas are seated, found in the Yansui Pavilion; and an ordination platform in a hall now used as a museum.

Be prepared to spend at least a half-day to enjoy all the features of this paradise.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily April 15, 2013.)

GPS Info:
  • 39.947140, 116.417250



Crowds of tourists wait to enter Yonghe Gong in Beijing
The Yonghe Gate shows a blend of architectural styles
The towering statue of Maitreya has been recognized by the Guinness Book
One of the many unusual Tibetan-style figures
An unusual lotus throne bearing Buddhas

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