Lama Temple

lama templeThe Lama Temple, situated in the north-eastern parts of Beijing, is the most famous Tibetan Buddhist temple outside of Tibet and was visited by past Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas (as well as one current-day Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama). 

Its construction began in 1694, during the early Qing Dynasty as a residence for the imperial court eunuchs. Later it was converted to serce as court for Prince Young before being assigned as temple in 1722.

The temple with its glazed decorations on the Gate of Luminous Peace is build in a mix, combining Han Chinese and Tibetan styles  As with the Temple of Heaven, the path through the Lama Temple proceeds from south to north - from earth to heaven.

In Chinese the Confucius Temple is named "Yong He Gong". As Beijings largest temple it is an enlightening sight, ornamented with intriguing statuary, stunning frescoes, tapestries, incredible carpentry and a formidable pair of Chinese lions. Perhaps most impressive of all is a 18m-(60ft)high sandalwood statue of the Maitreya Buddha in the Wanfu Pavilion, carved from a single tree.

The first thing you encounter in the temple are the holy shins - they're at eye level - and from there it's a head-tipper to the ceiling as the statue soars up and over the galleries. Around the Buddha's head are what appear to be spinning prayer wheels, emitting a sweet, harmonious tune. Closer inspection reveals them to be pigeons with whistles attached.

The temple's bell tower is the first structure reached after passing through the front gates, but the huge bell itself has been placed outside the tower for all to see.