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Lama Monastery

At the northeast corner of Beijing City is an elegant and ancient temple known as Yonghe Lamasery, which is the largest and most perfectly preserved lamasery in present day China, one of cultural relics protection units in China.
 
Built initially in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty, this building was the residence of Emperor Yongzheng when he was just a prince. However, it became a temporary imperial palace for Emperor Yongzheng in 1725 after he ascended the throng, named Yonghe Palace. All of the tiles were changed to be covered by yellow-glazed tiles within 15 days in order to place the corpse of Emperor Yongzheng in 1735. The Qing Dynasty formally changed the status of Yonghe Palace to that of a lamasery in 1744, and so Yonghe Lamasery became the national centre of Lama Administration.
 
At the south end of Yonghe Lamasery, stand a big screen wall, huge Paifangs (Gateways), and a pair of stone lions, symbols which show that this Lamasery was originally the dwelling of an Imperial Prince. Entering north from the Gateways, one will be confronted by a wide straight road which was used for the carriages of the imperial members during the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911). At the northern end of this road is Zhaotaimen (Gate of Peace Declaration), the main entrance gate of Yonghe Lamasery, which comprises three large archways.
 
Passing through Zhaotai Gate one will enter the second yard which contains a Bell tower and a Drum Tower, and in front of these towers are two octagonal Stele Pavilions. Inscriptions by Emperor Qianlong were carved on the stele explaining the traditional and historical reasons that formerly imperial dwellings later be changed to Lama temple.
 
Yonghe Gate between the two Stele Pavilions, originally the main entrance to the Lamasery is now the Hall of the Heavenly Kings. Located in the centre of the hall is a smiling Maitreya.
 
Next one will immediately observe an ancient copper cooking vessel made in 1747. This vessel, which appears to be black with white marble stone as its seat, has high artistic value and is among 'the three rarest things in Beijing '. On the northern side of the vessel is the Great Stele Pavilion with the doors open on each of its four sides. Inscriptions by Emperor Qianlong on the stele inform the origin and meaning of Lamaism. To the north of this Pavilion is an odd-shaped hill made of bronze, called Xuyu Hill, a sacred place of Buddhism which is considered to be the highest peak and represents a place to which all Buddhists are eager to go.
 
Yonghe Palace is the main palace of Yonghe Lamasery and inside three bronze Buddhas are displayed - Sakyamuni in the middle, Kasyapa-matanga on the right and Maitreya on the left. There are 18 Arhats (statues of Buddha disciples) positioned on both sides of the Hall. The picture on the west wall is of Avalokitesvara with its thousands of hands and eyes.
 
North of Yonghe Palace is Yongyou Building, which was Emperor Yongzheng's living room as a young prince and, at the time of his death his coffin was placed there. Now, a statue of Amitabha is located there and sacrificial offerings are made to it.
 
From Yongyoudian continue north to the Falun Building (Hall of the Wheel of the Law), which is the location for Lamas reading scriptures and holding Buddhist ceremonies. The Falun Building is a very special structure contains the architectural styles of both Tibetan and Han Nationalities. A large statue of Tsong Kha-pa, the founder of Lamaism is displayed here in the centre of the Hall and also receives sacrificial offerings. Behind this statue is an Arhat Hill, made of red sandal wood, containing 500 Arhats that shaped in different poses. In front of this Hill is a wooden basin which was said to have been used for washing Emperor Qianlong three days after his birth. Elegant large frescos illustrating the life of Sakyamuni stretch around both the east and west walls.
 
Wanfu Pavilion (Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses) is the last formal palace to be visited in this complex. This is the highest palace where in the centre there is an enormous statue of Maitreya, made of white sandal wood.
 
 

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