Beijing’s Lama Temple is a popular spot for locals and travelers alike, and this is never more true than during the Lunar New Year. Chinese people worldwide visit temples to make offerings, take some time to reflect, and pray for good fortune and luck in the New Year.
Also known as Yonghegong, the Lama Temple is recognized as one of the most significant examples of Tibetan-style temples outside of Tibet. Prayer flags add bright bursts of colour in every direction, and the architectural style (and its level of detail) are simply astounding.
Construction began in 1694 under the Qing dynasty. The complex served first as a residence for court eunuchs, later became home to Prince Yongzheng, and eventually was partially converted into a lamasery, or a temple where Tibetan Buddhists could study.
It was fascinating to witness so many locals deep in reflective thought, performing the kinds of rituals that have taken place for thousands of years. The skies were drizzly and grey with snowfall, and chilly mists intermingled with the heavily perfumed clouds floating up from visitors’ bundles of incense. It lent a wonderful atmosphere to the afternoon.
The Lama Temple can be accessed from the subway station bearing its Chinese name (Yonghegong) on lines 2 and 5. Take exit C and walk for about 400 metres. It will be obvious when you have reached the temple, fear not. Alternatively, there are a number of buses passing the area. After we’d had our fill of the bustling temple experience, Soozie and I wandered around the area a little more, coming across this elaborate (and busy!) restaurant. If you’re interested on seeing what else I got up to in Beijing, you can see my posts on the Great Wall of China, Summer Palace, or the Hutongs of Beijing here! And, of course, you can explore Beijing’s culinary side, be it everyday fare or the strange delights of the Wangfujing Night Market.
Have you been to Beijing? What did you enjoy the most about this vibrant and intriguing city?