In the midst of all the chaos lies this colourful temple, also known as Yonghegong, “Yonghe Temple” or “Palace of Peace and Harmony”. It was built in the 16th century and is the largest of its kind in Beijing.
The Lama Temple originally served as the residence for court eunuchs after which it was then converted into the court of prince Yong. After Yongzheng’s ascension to the throne in 1722, half of the building remained an imperial palace while the other half of the building was converted into a lamasery.
Its colours are vibrant and the smell of incense lingers in the impressive halls. They are filled with beautiful artefacts. A massive 26m tall Sandalwood Buddha statue wearing what seems to be a sari dominates the room and is surrounded by colourful paintings illustrating the repercussions of the deadly sins and statues of the many incarnations of Buddha. Outside stand heavy copper bowls holding candles and burning incense that have been offered for good fortune, each stick representing a prayer. The people believe that the smoke that fades towards the sky climbs to the heavens to reach the ears of the gods. Alongside the walls of the temple, there are big copper rolls holding written mantras and prayers. Monks, worshipers, children and visitors roll these wheels and touch the scriptures to silently offer a prayer.
This lama temple is still very much a holy site and monks still practice and live here. It offers an escape from the hectic city; walking around here recharges and brings new energy to take on the chaos that is Beijing!