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Beijing Attractions

Sightseeing Beijing


Lama Temple

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Lama Temple

The Lama Temple, northeast of downtown Beijing, is the most famous Tibetan Buddhist temple outside of Tibet and was visited by past Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas (as well as one current-day Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama).  This glazed decoration appears on the Gate of Luminous Peace, the entrance to the temple.  As with the Temple of Heaven on the previous page, the path through the Lama Temple proceeds from south to north - from earth to heaven.

In Chinese, it is called "YongHeGong". Beijing's largest temple is an enlightening sight, ornamented with intriguing statuary, stunning frescoes, tapestries, incredible carpentry and a formidable pair of Chinese lions. Perhaps most impressive of all is a 18m-(60ft)high sandalwood statue of the Maitreya (future) Buddha in the Wanfu Pavilion, carved from a single tree.

The Lhama (or Tibetan) Temple, with its beautifully landscaped gardens, stunning frescoes and tapestries, and incredible carpentry, is a temple to die for.

The first thing you encounter is the holy shins - they're at eye level - and from there it's a head-tipper to the ceiling as the statue soars up and over the galleries. Flitting around the Buddha's head are what appear to be spinning prayer wheels, emitting a sweet, harmonious whine. Closer inspection reveals them to be pigeons with whistles attached. You can't help thinking the poor things are on one of the lower levels of samsara - it's a crappy job even for a pigeon.

The temple's bell tower is the first structure reached after passing through the front gates, but the huge bell itself has been placed outside the tower for all to see.  This is a detail of calligraphy on one small section of the bell.

The temple is a working lamasery so it's closed early in the mornings for prayer. Some have questioned whether the monks in the tennis shoes are real monks or government stooges. Most tour guides will answer that of course they are real Tibetan monks; that the alleged oppression of Tibet is propaganda put about by the Dalai Lama; that Tibetans love the Chinese; and that the existence of the temple is proof of China's good intentions. Take this with a grain of salt.

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