The Lama Temple (Yonghegong), one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist temples outside Tibet, began as a palace for Emperor Yongzheng before he became the third emperor of the Qing Dynasty. Today, the resplendent temple, with its halls, courtyards, ponds, and bronze mandala, is a lamasery for some two dozen Tibetan monks.
If you only have time to visit one temple in Beijing, make it the Lama Temple (the Temple of Heaven isn’t really a temple). Inside you'll find five large halls, ornately decorated with Buddha statues in various incarnations, murals, and carvings. Many Beijing sightseeing tours include a visit to the temple, along with other Beijing attractions, such as the Summer Palace, Panda Garden, Jingshan Park, Beijing Zoo, and historic hutongs, depending on the option chosen.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Lama Temple is a must-see for those with an interest in history, architecture, or religion.
- Allow yourself an hour to 90 minutes to tour the temple grounds.
- Wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking over uneven surfaces.
- Remember this is a functioning temple for Tibetan Buddhism, so be respectful of the worshippers.
- Beijing tours that include the Lama Temple often last more than eight hours.
How to Get There
The easiest way to reach Lama Temple is to take the Beijing Subway (Line 2 or Line 5) to Yonghegong Station and take Exit C. From there, it’s just a short walk to the temple entrance.
When to Get There
The Lama Temple is open daily throughout the year with slightly reduced hours between November and March. While there’s no need to book a ticket in advance, it’s a good idea to arrive early in the morning before the tour buses. Avoid visiting on Chinese national holidays.
The Halls of Lama Temple
The Lama Temple complex comprises five main halls. Statues of the Future Buddha stand guard within the Hall of Heavenly Kings, while Past, Present, and Future Buddhas occupy the Hall of Harmony. A highlight for many is the 85-foot (26-meter) statue of Maitreya Buddha carved from a single piece of sandalwood, on display in the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Fortunes.