Xilituzhao Palace Temple, built in CE 1585 for the 3rd Dalai Lama, and the largest Lama temple (a Lama temple is a Tibetan-Buddhist temple) in Hohhot, the captial of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (aka Inner Mongolia), is located at the eastern extremity of Xingwang Alley, only about 100 meters from the city's largest Buddhist temple, Dazhao Temple. Xilituzhao Palace Temple was a small temple when it was originally built during the Ming (CE 1368-1644) Dynasty. After having been completely destroyed by fire, the temple was rebuilt on a larger format toward the end of the Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasty. It suffered some destruction during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), but was again restored. Today, the temple covers an area of more than 5000 square meters.
A Short Historical Interlude...
Xilituzhao Palace Temple, which is still an active Lama temple, once played an interesting, patriotic role in China's history, though the temple and the good people of the area were surely only pawns in a rather unflattering game of trickery, albeit, for a good cause - the sake of the country.
Galdan (Choros Erdeniin Galdan (CE 1644-1697)), a descendant of the first king of Tibet, was once a young lama who had been sent to Lhasa to be educated under the 5th Dalai Lama, but gave up his study as a lama in order to avenge his older brother, who had been murdered by a half-brother. Galdan, who later founded the Dzungar Khanate (note that the term khanate can refer to a Tibetan-Buddhist as well as a Muslim dominion), which included Eastern Turkistan and parts of Central Asia, invaded Mongolia in CE 1694 with an eye to annexing it for his khanate. As Galdan pushed forward towards the Great Wall, the inhabitants there, the Khalkha Mongols (the Khalkha are the largest subgroup of Mongols and comprise the majority of present-day Outer Mongolia - indeed, their language is the Khalkha dialect), retreated into Inner Mongolia, seeking protection under the Chinese emperor.
In the meantime, the reigning Qing Dynasty emperor, Kangxi (CE 1661-1722), tricked Galdan into coming to a site near Beijing to sign a peace accord. As Galdan approached the designated rendezvous point with his army, not suspecting trickery, he was ambushed, and his army suffered major losses, though Galdan managed to escape. Emperor Kangxi then appealed to the leader of Xilituzhao Palace Temple for help in recruiting volunteers to pursue Galdan. Xilituzhao Palace Temple's leader willingly obliged (he likened Galdan and his army to barbarians, which appeal naturally aroused feelings of patriotism), and a combined Chinese and Khalkhan Mongol force eventually completely routed the army of Galdan, though Galdan himself again managed to escape. Galdan's lucky escape cost Galdan's wife, who had aided him in this endeavor, her life. Galdan later "fell on his sword" in order to avoid imminent capture.
The unlucky Galdan was betrayed not only by strangers. While he was doing battle against the Mongolians, his cousin usurped his throne, although, had Galdan not been defeated by the combined treachery of Emperor Kangxi and the patriotism of the good Buddhists of Hohhot, he would surely - not unlike Richard the Lionheart - have regained his throne from his treacherous cousin.
Xilituzhao Palace Temple fared better - Emperor Kangxi gave the temple his blessings, and had a 15 meter high stupa, or dagoba (aka pagoda), in white marble erected beside the temple. It stands there still.
Back to the Present
Xilituzhao Palace Temple exhibits elements of both Tibetan and Han Chinese architectural styles. The Han Chinese influence is most evident in the overall layout of the temple compound, while the Tibetan influence is most obvious in the architectural style of the main building, the temple hall. Xilituzhao Palace Temple consists of a decorated archway, an entranceway, an Assembly Hall, and a monument. The Assembly Hall has a magnificent exterior with resplendent interiors. A monument inscribed in four different languages stands at the front of the hall, while fine paintings grace its walls, which are decorated with azure stones.