On our way to house/pet sitting in Australia, we opted for a stop over in Beijing. It was a great opportunity to visit the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Lama Temple. We accomplished this by some research (Trip Advisor and the internet). We rented a car with a driver. What a great way to start off our fifth year of house/pet sitting -2017 to 2018.
We Were Not Prepared for the Wow Moments!
As soon as we entered the gate, our eyes were treated to fabulous frescoes, stunning carpentry, colourful decorative arches, and stylish eastern riveting roofs. Tourists and travelling Buddhists revelled in catching a glimpse of Tantric statues, protective Chinese lions and Tibetan prayer wheels. Devout Buddhists lit incense candles and in the midst of the drifting scents, prayers wound their way skyward. Some of the faithful protracted themselves in devoted movements within the halls. The entire visit involved every sense of two very happy Canadian travellers.
The Lama Temple’s name in the following languages
Tibetan name དགའ་ལྡན་བྱིན་ཆགས་གླིང་ Mongolian name Найралт Найрамдyy Сүм
The Lama Temple resembles a Matryoshka doll
as one temple and courtyard opens in to the next- along a 480m north-south axis, though each successive temple hall is actually larger than the preceding one.
Built initially in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty, this building was the residence of Emperor Yongzheng when he was just a prince. However, in 1744 the Qing Dynasty formally changed the status of the dwelling to that of a lamasery, and so it became the national centre of Lama administration. It houses Buddhist gods, Buddhas and demons. The completion of the Great Wall was unfinished to house monks from Tibet and Mongolia.
It occupies an area of 66,400 square meters (16 acres) and is described as a mini-palace with yellow glazed tiles on the roof and flooring and red walls circling the group of buildings. As a result of the ancient architecture, every element of the temple is entirely symmetrical, with main halls on a north-south axis and wing halls on both sides. The Yonghe Temple is arranged along a north-south central axis, which has a length of 480 metres.
The main gate is at the southern end of this axis. Along the axis, there are five main halls which are separated by courtyards:
- The Hall of the Heavenly Kings (Tian Wang Dian or Devaraja Hall),
- The Hall of Harmony and Peace (Yonghegong), t
- The Hall of Everlasting Protection (Yongyoudian)
- The Hall of the Wheel of the Law (Falundian),
- The Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses (Wanfuge)
The Bell Tower – on the Way to the Hall of Heavenly Kings
The huge, 42 ton, bronze bell at the top of the Bell Tower is 3.94 inches thick with over 500 years history. Legend comes that the bell-maker’s daughter threw herself into the molten metal to ensure the successful casting of the bell after a number of failures.
The Bell Tower& Drum Tower Highlight
A close scrutiny reveals that bells and drums were popular musical instruments in ancient China but later they were used as watches to tell time. The bell was rung to mark the time during the night in Beijing to avoid waking the capital’s citizens while the drum was used to wake people up at 5am – the designated time to rise.
From the top of the Bell Tower of the Drum Tower, there are good views over the neighborhood Hutong rooftops, the skyscrapers of downtown Beijing are also clearly visible. Besides, the square between the Drum and Bell Towers – Zhonggulou – is a pleasant and lively place for strolling at night.
1. The Hall of Heavenly Kings (or Devaraja Hall)
—entered by Yonghe Gate
The Hall of the Heavenly Kings houses a statue of the Maitreya Buddha flanked by the four Heavenly Kings, who act as guardians of the four directions.
The northern Heavenly King on the eastern side holds a snake and treasures;
- the southern King on the eastern side holds an umbrella and a silver mouse;
- the western King holds a sword
- the northern King holds a Pipa (a musical instrument used in ancient China).
- Located in the centre of the Palace is a smiling Maitreya
Exiting Devaraja Hall notice
ancient copper cooking vessel (1747)
- rests on black/white marble stone – said to the among ‘the three rarest things in Beijing’.
Hall of Harmony and Peace:
Leaving Hall of Kings next is Hall of Harmony with four wing halls.
Notice three Buddahas:
The Hall of Harmony and Peace (雍和宮)
1. Sakyamuni (Buddha of the Present),
2. Kasyapa Matanga (Buddha of the Past)
3. Maitreya Buddha (Buddha of the Future).
Just in front of the hall, a stramonium hill
We just marvelled at a copper cooking vessel made in 1747 that was located in the courtyard. It is reputed to be one of the ‘three rarest objects in Beijing’.
The picture on the west wall is of Avalokitesvara with its thousands of hands and eyes.
The Hall of Everlasting Protection
This was Emperor Yongzheng’s living quarters as a prince and the place where his coffin was placed after his death. Today, a statue of the Bhaisajya-guru (healing Buddha) stands in this hall.
The Hall of the Wheel of the Law
This functions as a place for reading scriptures and conducting religious ceremonies.
It contains a large statue of Je Tsongkhapa, founder of the Geluk School. The hall also contains the Five-Hundred- Arhat-Hill, a carving made of red sandalwood. An arhat is believed to be a person who has perfected his/her life in such a way as to have gained insight into the true nature of existence. An arhat has achieved Nirvana or spiritual enlightenment having freed himself/herself from the bonds of desire. It is believed that such a person will not have to be part of the continuous reincarnations. This person will not be reborn.
Lamas study here: Esoteric and Exoteric Buddhism, Tibetan medicine, astronomy and geography.
The Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses
There are three Buddha statues representing the Three Ages:
1. Sakyamun (Gautama)i (Buddha of the Present) is located in the centre of the three Buddhas.
2. Kasyapa Matanga (Buddha of the Past) – on the right.
3. Maitreya Buddha (Buddha of the Future) – on the left.
The Maitreya Buddha contains an 18m tall (with an additional 8m underground, making it 26m in total) statue of the Maitreya Buddha carved from a single white sandalwood. This was a gift from the seventh Dalai Lama om 1750 to the Qianlong Emperor and took three years to transport from Tibet to Beijing. The statue is one of three artworks in the Temple which were included in the Guinness Book of Records in 1993
According to Buddhist tradition, Maitreya is a bodhisattva ( one who could have reached Nirvana and avoided reincarnations, but decided to reincarnate and help others reach enlightenment and Nirvana.
Gold Statue of Wei-Tuo
Behind the shrine of Maitreya stands the statue of Wei-Tuo facing backwards to large courtyard.
He appears as a majestic general in his armor. When the Buddha was alive and before he entered Nirvana (heaven), he ordered the general Wei Too to protect the Buddha Dharma. It is reported that after the Buddha died, holy relics were robbed by evil demons. The bodhisattva Wei Tou overcame the demons and recovered the relics of the Buddha.
There is a gallery of Tibetan statues to the side including a collection of Tibetan Tantric statues with ferocious-looking gods and goddesses in sexual union. Emperor Yongzheng’s living room is here, when he lived there as a young prince and, at the time of his death his coffin was placed there..
The Fifth hall, the Wànfú Pavilion (Wànfú Gé), houses a magnificent 18m-high statue of the Maitreya Buddha in his Tibetan form, clothed in yellow satin and reputedly sculpted from a single block of sandalwood. Each of the Bodhisattva’s toes is the size of a pillow.
Behind the statue is the Vault of Avalokiteshvara. Avalokiteśvara is a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. This bodhisattva is variably depicted and described and is portrayed in different cultures as either female or male.
from where a diminutive and blue-faced statue of Guanyin peeks out. The Wànfú Pavilion is linked by an overhead walkway to the Yánsuí Pavilion (Yánsuí Gé), which encloses a huge lotus flower that revolves to reveal an effigy of the Longevity Buddha.