Yonghegong Lamasery, which is the largest and most
perfectly preserved Lama temple in Han China.
Built initially in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty,
Yonghegong Lamasery was the residence of Emperor Yongzheng when he
was just a prince. However, in 1744 the Qing Dynasty formally changed
the status of the dwelling to that of a lamasery, and so Yonghe
Lamasery became the national centre of Lama administration.
The temple complex has a typical Chinese Buddhist
temple layout of three courtyard structures. The front structural
layout in the temple is bright and spacious dotted with screen walls
with carved murals, lifeless things and decorated archways. The
interior pavement leading to the main halls and the evergreen pine
and cypress appear to be rather peaceful and secluded in the environment.
The back structural layout is composed of a cluster of building,
halls and pavilions intermingled with each other, and upturned eaves
and ridges beautifully interwoven presenting a picturesque sight.
The main buildings are arranged on a north-south
axis including Hall of the Heavenly Kings, Hall of Harmony and Peace,
Hall of the Wheel of the Law and Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happiness.
A variety of associated buildings on each side of the axis house
study rooms and monks' dormitories.
The whole architecture features a blending of
Han, Manchu, Mongolian and Tibetan Buddhist styles, and over the
entrance gate of each main hall hangs a plaque with the name of
the hall with inscriptions in Tibetan, Mongolian and Chinese languages.
Inside the building are superb examples of carving
and carpentry. Sculptures are made from all kinds of weird and wonderful
materials including gold, silver, copper, iron and tin.
A collection of various Buddha and Arhat statues
are enshrined in the temple. In the Hall of the Boundless Happiness,
stands a famous huge statue of Buddha, 26 meters high carved out
of a whole piece of sandalwood; it is the biggest wood-carving Buddha
in the world.