Lama Temple (Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery)
The only temple in Beijing to have its own subway stop, the Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery, or Yonghegong, is the most handsome and impressive Buddhist temple in the city. The Lama Temple was originally the residence of Prince Yongzheng, who later became Emperor. His mansion was converted into a temple in 1744 after he ascended the throne. One of the most prominent features of the temple is a huge, 23-metre-tall Maitreya Buddha, which was carved from the trunk of a white sandalwood tree. The tree was from Tibet, and it took over a decade for it to be lugged all the way to Beijing. The temple basically consists of five halls which are connected by five courtyards and three beautiful archways. It does not take too long to go through the whole temple, but there are many places worth lingering in.
Today, the Lama Temple is home to about 70 lamas, who are actually from Mongolia, even though it is a Tibetan Lama Temple. The lamas that are out and about are willing to talk to visitors, and have interesting stories to tell. For a small fee, you can also get the lamas to bless things for you, usually jade pendants and the like. Blessed items can bring good luck and protect the wearer.
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