The Lama Temple, more formerly The Palace of Peace and Harmony Lamasery or the Yonghe Temple, is one of Chinaâ€™s largest and most important lamaseries. It began construction under the Qing dynasty in 1694 and at times has served as an imperial palace, though its primary purpose has historically been that of a Tibetan Buddhist lamasery, acting as the residence for monks largely from Tibet and Mongolia. It is historically considered the central administrative location for Tibetan Buddhists outside of Tibet.
The temple itself is located in Beijingâ€™s Dongcheng District just south of the intersection of subway Lines 2 & 5, the Yonghegong stop. The grounds consist of five main halls located along a South-North axis, each separated by a courtyard. These five halls are, respectively: Hall of the Heavenly KingsÂ (Tian Wang DianÂ orÂ Devaraja Hall), theÂ Hall of Harmony and PeaceÂ (Yonghegong), theÂ Hall of Everlasting ProtectionÂ (Yongyoudian), theÂ Hall of the Wheel of the LawÂ (Falundian), and theÂ Pavilion of Ten Thousand HappinessesÂ (Wanfuge). The Hall of Peace and Harmony, the building of highest importance, houses three large, bronze Buddha statues. At its center sits the Gautama BuddhaÂ (Buddha of the Present) and to either side sit theÂ Kasyapa MatangaÂ (Buddha of the Past) and theÂ Maitreya BuddhaÂ (Buddha of the Future). The Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses, the final in the procession of halls, contains a 26m tall statue of the Maitreya Buddha impressively carved from a single piece of white sandalwood.
The temple was closed for 30 years after the Civil Warâ€™s end in 1949, but reopened in 1981. Unlike many other Tibetan Buddhist temples, it is said to have survived the Cultural Revolution because of the intervention of then Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, thus giving it even greater importance in modern China. Though mainly considered a tourist attraction since its reopening, the Lama Temple is again becoming a central place of worship as the number of Chinese devotees to Tibetan Buddhism is quickly on the rise in recent years.