Yong He Gong, or the Palace of Harmony and Peace, and widely known as the Lama Temple, is a best preserved Tibetan Buddhist temple in China. Located in An Ding Men, Dongcheng District, the Lama temple covers 66,400 square meters and is 480 meters long from north to south and 120 meters wide from east to west. The architecture, ornaments and size of the temple is comparable to the Forbidden City therefore it is recognized that it is a miniature royal palace and a Buddhist temple of the highest ranking in China.
In fact the Lama Temple was originally associated with the royal family. It was first built as a residence for Prince Yinzhen, the fourth son of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty. Prince Yinzhen was known as the Yong Prince, so the palace was called Yong He Palace. After.
Yonghe Lama Temple
The Thangka （Photo source from the web）
Prince Yong took the supreme power in 1725 (Emperor Yongzhen), he moved his residence to the Forbidden City and turned half of this old home into a temple for the Yellow Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Emperor Yongzhen died in 1735 and then his son Hongli – Emperor Qianlong succeeded him. He become one of a most well known emperors in the Chinese history. It was Qinglong that officially converted the palace into a Lamasery in 1744. From that time on, the emperor ordered that the decoration of the temple combine the architectural elements of Manchu, Han, Mongolian, and Tibetan, to soothe the conflicts among ethnic groups and consolidate the Qing Empire.
The 66,400 square meters Lama temple consists of seven courtyards from south to north, including three well-decorated elegant archways and six main buildings lying along the north- south central axis, with annex halls standing along both sides. The six main buildings are the Gate of Harmony and Peace, the Hall of Harmony and Peace, the Hall of Eternal Blessings, the Hall of Dharma Wheel, the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happiness, and the Pavilion of Peaceful Accomplishment. In addition four side buildings called the Four Academic halls were built on both sides.
The most important of the wooden sculptures in the Lama Temple are: 1) the Mountain of the 500 Arbats which is carved in red sandalwood in the Hall of Dharma Wheel, 2) the giant 18 meters high Statute of Buddha Maitreya carved in white sandalwood in the Ten Thousand Happiness Pavilion and 3) the Buddha’s Shrine made of nanmu with fine veins in three tiers, and carved out 99 intertwined dragons in the Zhaofulou Building.
The Lama temple also houses a large variety of Tibetan Buddhist antiques and artworks such as the Buddhist scriptures and frescos. The Lama Temple annual Temple Fair is also very famous in Beijing, and is held from January 23 to February 1.