Sunday, May 27, 2007
I have passed the Yong He Gong (Lama Temple) a few times by taxi and finally went to check it out.
It's not far from the subway station (Yong He Gong station), and after you pay the 25RMB (CAD$3.27) admission, it's a tranquil place, but become a total tourist attraction.
It was built in 1694 originally for the Qing prince who would become the Yongzheng emperor. And when he moved to the Forbidden City, the compound was turned into a temple in 1744.
The government proudly says that before 1949 the temple wasn't maintained well and after the People's Republic was established, the government put in a lot of money and effort to renovate the temple. Apparently Zhou Enlai was one of its biggest supporters. As a government-sanctioned temple, I must say its monks are fed well with ruddy cheeks and big frames.
There are five halls on the grounds, each enclosed with some kind of Buddha statue, clothed in silk and looking down on their devotees. There's lots of incense burning in front of the buildings and many paying respects. Inside and out, the halls are all ornately decorated with tiled roofs complete with mythical creatures guarding each of the four corners and the walls and ceilings painted in many colours. Unfortunately there wasn't much English explanation and my guidebook had only a few extra bits of information.
One of the halls has a statue of the founder of reformist Yellow Hat (Geluk) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The bronze statue depicts him wearing a golden pointed cap and long ear flaps. And the last hall has a 60ft-tall Tibetan-style statue of Maitreya (the future Buddha) carved from a single piece of sandalwood.
It's interesting to see the government put so much effort into preserving this temple and its artifacts while trying to make Tibet more Chinese...