Overview: This half-day walk takes you to two important temples in the heart of Beijing. During the Cultural Revolution, religious buildings and... more »
This half-day walk takes you to two important temples in the heart of Beijing. During the Cultural Revolution, religious buildings and... more » artifacts were systematically sought out and destroyed and the suspicion of organized religion was encouraged. Despite this, Chinese traditions carried on. With the end of the Cultural Revolution, China is rediscovering the comforts and wisdom it received through Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Strictly speaking, Confucianism is a philosophy describing a set of moral codes as opposed to a religion. As the oldest school of thought, it has influenced both Buddhism and Taoism in China.
The first stop is the ornate and bustling Yonghegong Lama Temple, the primary Tibetan Buddhist temple in Beijing. Nearby is the Confucian Temple, a serene retreat full of stoic cypress trees and large stone tablets. In between, stroll down a charming street and take in the daily life as shop owners chat with their neighbors over tea and old men gather for games of Chinese chess. less «
The temples are easily accessible by subway or taxi and are located in Dongcheng, the most historic section of Beijing. While you're... more » here, be sure to peek down some of the hutongs; these narrow alleys were typical of the old city. Made up of homes and small shops, hutongs are a nice way to see a slice of daily life. More gentrified hutongs, full of bars, cafes and stores catering to the modern consumer are a quick rickshaw ride away. Nanluoguxiang Hutong is the most well known. Street names in general are in both Chinese characters and pinyin (using the Roman alphabet).
Though the Lama Temple is filled with tourists please realize this is an active temple where many people come to worship. There is no particular dress code. Cash only. less «
From the subway stop for Yonghegong Lama Temple, Exit C (Line 5), follow the signs for Exit C. Once street level, you will be roughly at the intersection of Yonghegong Street and Andigmen Dondajie. Turn left (south) down Yonghegong. The red wall on your left is part of the Lama Temple complex, but you will have to walk approximately 200 meters... More before you reach the main entrance. You will know you're heading the right way when you see stall after stall of incense and colorful plastic flowers.Less
The temple was originally built for Prince Yong of the Qing Dynasty and was used as his retreat once Yong become emperor. His successor, Emperor Qianlong, changed the palace into a temple devoted to Tibetan Buddhism in 1744. Buddhism spread to China from India and gained popularity in the fourth century. Tibetan Buddhism evolved as a distinct... More branch as the people of Tibet merged Buddhist thought with their previous beliefs in various deities and healing shamans. As a result, Tibetan Buddhism is more mystical and involves more sacred art and rituals than the Buddhism practiced in India.
After entering the Lama Temple's elaborate archway, tickets and an audio guide can be purchased straight ahead; the entrance is on the left.
Kids 11 and younger Free
The complex opens up to the tree-lined Imperial Carriage Pathway, so named because the Lama Temple originally served as a royal residence. The canopy of trees and the birds they house work wonders in making the frantic Beijing traffic seem more than just a few meters away.
Here there is a map of the compound and a brief history of the Lama Temple. Four major halls are built on the north-south axis, each one greater than the last. These are active places of worship and photography is not permitted inside the buildings. Passing through Zhaotai, there are several places to rest in the shade as well as watch the diverse... More stream of visitors burn their incense.Less
Directly ahead is the first hall, called Yonghe Gate. Here sits the gilded big-bellied Maitreya Buddha, also known as the future Buddha. He is flanked by the four heavenly kings. Continue through to the other side and directly ahead is Yonghe Hall, which houses past, present and future Buddhas. The name Yonghe refers to the name of the emperor for... More whom the complex was originally built.Less
Faiundan, or Hall of the Wheel of Law, is even more richly decorated than the previous halls and has a spacious interior where monks would gather to listen to lectures on sutras, or sacred texts. Take the right side toward the back to see the elevated seat where a photo of the Dalai Lama has the place of honor. The dalai lama is the highest of the... More lamas and is the Christian equivalent to the pope.Less
Those who make it to the largest hall on the northern end are rewarded by the sight of a Tibetan Maitreya Buddha, which is 18 meters tall and carved from a single trunk of white sandalwood. The Buddha also extends an unseen 8 meters into the ground, making its total length 26 meters and placing the Maitreya Buddha in the Guinness Book of World... More Records for largest Buddha carved out of a single block of wood. A bit specific perhaps, but impressive nonetheless.Less
If facing the Wanfu Pavilion, the Banchan Exhibition Hall is to the right and slightly behind you (southeast). This houses the Royal Temple of Tibetan Buddhism and dozens of ornate objects are on display, including lavishly embroidered ceremonial robes, a drum made of skulls and gilded incense burners, all used by lamas during the temple's heyday ... More200 years ago.
After reaching the northernmost point, return to the entrance to leave the complex. There is plenty more to see, so if time is on your side be sure to peek into the side halls on the east and west. For a breath of conditioned air, step into one of the high-end gift shops. They are quite beautifully designed, with exquisitely crafted (and exquisitely expensive) statues, jewelry and other Buddhist insignia.Less
As you emerge from the Lama Temple, you will see the entrance to Guozijian Street; the ornate archway is hard to miss. It is across the street and slightly to your right (north). There is a crosswalk, but pay attention because there is no light or stop sign and cars, bikes and buses think frighteningly little of pedestrians. A five-minute stroll... More down Guozijian will bring you to the Confucian Temple on the right.Less
As you enter the temple, you will see the Gate of Great Success in front of you and dozens of stone tablets off to each side. The tablets are inscribed with names of elite scholars who passed the highest level of the Imperial Confucian examination, an intense three-day test for those wanting to serve in the top ranks of government.
There are... More English labels throughout and the exhibition halls have text in both Chinese and English.
Note: Ticket sales end a half-hour before closing.
Passing through the Gate of Great Success, there is a quiet courtyard filled with ossified cypress trees frozen in time. The visitors here seem content with quiet reflection under the shade of the ancient trees. This section is also filled with large stone tablets perched on the backs of strange tortoise-dragons. Even without being able to read... More Chinese, the ancient inscriptions of Confucian classics provide an aura of solemn history to the grounds.Less
The largest structure is Da Cheng Hall, which is filled with musical instruments and vessels used in ceremonies to honor Confucius teachings and in ancestor worship. There is also a small display depicting Confucian ceremonial rituals involving music and dancers.
Off to the right and left are the East and West Exhibition Halls, housing the displays "Confucianism and Its Influence" and "Confucianism Abroad." While not terribly riveting, the exhibits help paint a general picture of the philosophy throughout the ages.
The gift shop to the left of Da Cheng Hall sells cold beverages and is... More worth a peek for a nice selection of paper cuts in addition to the typical Chinese watercolor paintings. You also can pick up some jade furniture, for those not worried about baggage allowance.Less
Xu Xiang Zhai Vegetarian is located across from the Confucian Temple and is a great place to dine with monks. Buddhist cuisine is vegetarian but chefs typically go to great lengths to have dishes that appear to be made of meat. Along with tofu they serve vegetarian versions of chicken, beef and pork. The result can be both curious and delicious.... More There is a buffet for lunch and dinner, you can order off the menu as well. There is an English menu.
Hours: Daily 10am - 9pm
Taking a left out the main entrance, walk back up Guozijian until it hits Yonghegong. Cross the street and take a left; the entrance to Yonghegong Lama Temple station, Exit C (Line 5), will be on your right.