Beijing's largest temple 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 an 18m (60ft) high sandalwood statue of the Maitreya
(future) Buddha in the Wanfu Pavilion, carved from a single tree.
The Lama (or Tibetan) Temple, with its beautifully
landscaped gardens, is a temple to die for. The first thing you encounter
is 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.
Flitting around the Buddha's head are what appear to be spinning prayer
wheels, emitting a sweet, harmonious whine. Closer inspection reveals them
to be pigeons with whistles attached. You can't help thinking the poor
things are on one of the lower levels of samsara - it's a crappy job even
for a pigeon.
The temple is a working lamasery so it's closed early
in the mornings for prayer. Some have questioned whether the monks in the
tennis shoes are real monks or government stooges. Most tour guides will
answer that of course they are real Tibetan monks; that the alleged
oppression of Tibet is propaganda put about by the Dalai Lama; that
Tibetans love the Chinese; and that the existence of the temple is proof
of China's good intentions. Take this with a grain of salt.
Yonghegong Dajie, Dongcheng District
Address in Chinese: 东城区雍和宫大街12
Tel: 010-8402 8329 (Chinese language only)
Ticket Price: 25.00 Yuan/person