Yonghegong Lama Temple,
located in the northeast of Beijing's city center, is also known as
the "Palace of Peace and Harmony Lama Temple.'' Construction of the
Temple began in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty. Originally, it served
as the official residence for court eunuchs but it was converted
into the court of Prince Yong (Yin Zhen), after Yongzheng's
ascension as Emperor. After Yong Zheng's ascension to the Imperial
throne, half of the complex was converted into a Tibetan monastery.
The Qianlong Emperor, Yongzheng's successor, granted the temple the
status of and imperial palace by having its turquoise tiles replaced
with yellow tiles (yellow tiles were traditionally reserved for
emperors). In 1744, it became a residence for Tibetan Buddhist monks
from Mongolia and Tibet, becoming the most renowned Tibetan Buddhist
Temple in China outside of Tibet.
The main building is the
Hall of Harmony and Peace (Mahavira Hall or DaXiongBaoDian). It
houses three bronze statues of the Mahavira Buddha sculptures of the
Three Ages. A statue of Gautama Buddha (Buddha of the Present, also
called Sakyamuni) is in the middle. Kasyapa Matanga statue (Buddha
of the Past) and Maitreya Buddha statue (Buddha of the Future) stand
on the right and left side respectively. Along the sides of the
hall, 18 Arhat statues are placed. The 18 Arhats are the disciples
of Samkyamuni. On the western wall is a mural showing the
Hall of the Wheel of the Law
(FalunDian), with 5 gilded pagodas, functions as a place for reading
sutras and conducting religious ceremonies. It houses a 6m tall
bronze statue of Tsong Khapa, founder of the Geluk (Yellow Hat)
School of Buddhism. The hall also houses a carving made of red
sandalwood with 500 arhat statues made from five different metals -
gold, silver, copper, iron and tin.
Pavilion of Ten Thousand
Happiness displays a gigantic (18m) statue of the Maitreya Buddha
carved from a single piece of White Sandalwood. This statue is one
of three artworks in the temple that were included in the Guinness
Book of World Records in 1993.
Today, there are still at
least 130 lamas living in the temple.
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