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Lama Temple – the Tibetan temple that was once home to an Emperor

From among the many ancient temples in Beijing, the Lama Temple holds a special place as it is the largest and probably the most well preserved Tibetan monasteries in the world today. Located in the south east corner of Beijing, the temple which is also known as the Palace of Peace and Harmony was, at the time of its inception, utilized as the residence of Emperor Yongzheng during his days as a young prince. Supposed to have been built in 1694, the residence was later converted into a monastery for Tibetan monks.

The temple later gained imperial status after the death of Emperor Yongzheng, having its turquoise tiles replaced by yellow ones which were reserved for the emperor. Having survived the cultural revolution, the temple today bears witness to the architecture and sculpture as well as murals of that bygone era and was reopened for public viewing in 1981.

The temple is found at the north east corner of the second ring road in Dongcheng district, with its own subway stop .The Dongcheng district is known as a vibrant area with other ancient attractions nearby like the Forbidden City, major shopping and entertainment areas as well as some great serviced apartments in Beijing. The Lama Temple is built along a north south axis, and displays impressive architecture with upturned eaves, broad gateways and large pavilions containing huge rosewood Buddha statues.  Entering from the South end, a visitor can walk into a courtyard which shows three large gateways and see strong evidence that gives away its history as an Emperor’s dwelling. The most remarkable areas of the temple are the three hallways among which the Hall of Peace and Harmony takes precedence. It contains three large Buddha statues belonging to Buddhas of the past, present and future as well as arahat statues. The large imposing Buddha statue of 26 metres in height, carved entirely from white sandalwood standing in the Hall of Ten Thousand Happiness is one of the Guinness Book entries in the temple.

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