So you are planning your visit to China. May I just say that I am not jealous of your position at this point. China is a giant country. And that concerns not only the territory and population. The Celestial Empire is packed with any kind of historical and cultural monuments your heart can desire. Choosing amongst these is a brave decision you have to make.
It will be wise to narrow your journey to one city, if you really want to have a chance to ‘feel’ it from inside out. And what better place to start than from the capital itself – Beijing. Unfortunately, that would hardly make your further choices easier. Beijing has so many amazing sights to offer. But if you are interested in Buddhism, then this article has got your back covered.
There are certainly thousands of Buddhist temples out there. A whole life will probably not be enough to admire all of them. Then why not choose visiting the one that has three pieces of art that are included into the Guinness book of records?
12 Yonghegong St., Dongcheng Qu, Beijing, China.
It is the most famous Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. The temple is active nowadays. And you can find yourself bumping into Tibetan, Chinese or Mongolian monks, while admiring the views. It was originally built in 1694 as an imperial palace. Only 50 years later it became a lamasery.
Inside, the temple is divided into halls. It is not only the artwork inside you can appreciate, but also the marvelous names of the rooms. The Hall of Everlasting Protection, the Hall of the Heavenly Kings, the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses etc. Many statues of Buddha, the amazing fres-coes, arches, carpentry and roofs – everything in this temple seems to be so beautifully calming.
The Guiness Book of Records (1993)
Let’s get back to the main reason why the Yonghe Temple attracts millions of tourists every year. There are actually three of those.
1) Three Bronze Statues of the Buddhas of the Three Ages
You can find them in the Hall of Harmony and Peace. The statue of the Buddha representing the present stands in the center. Buddha of the future is on the left, while the Buddha of the past is on the right.
2) The Five-Hundred-Arhat-Hill
To find this masterpiece go to the Hall of the Wheel of the Law. The artwork is a carving with stat-ues of the Arhats. The Arhat in Buddhism is a ‘perfected person’ who reached nirvana. The carving is made of red sandalwood. To make the statues five types of metals were used: iron, copper, tin, gold and silver.
3) The Statue of the Maitreya Buddha
Most consider this to be the most fascinating statue in the temple. You can find it in the marvelous Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses. The statue of the Maitreya Buddha is made from a single piece of sandalwood. The entirely white masterpiece is 18 meters high without the underground. ‘Maitreya’ is the future Buddha of this world.
Besides the artworks mentioned, there certainly are plenty of things to see. The Yonghe Temple is the largest lamasery in modern China. But remember to consult the opening hours before heading there. Depending on the time of the year the temple may close at 4 or 4.30 p.m. It opens its doors at 9 a.m. every day. The admission fee is CNY 25. It is easy to get there by the subway or one out of many bus routes.