Yonghe Temple, or Yong He Gong, the biggest Tibetan Buddhist lamasery in Beijing, was built in 1694 as the residence of Prince Yong of Qing Dynasty. After the prince came to the throne (i.e. Emperor Yongzheng), he promoted his old residence into a temporary dwelling palace called "Yong He Gong) (meaning palace of harmony and peace) in 1725. In 1744, his successor, Empoero Qianlong changed the palace into lama temple.
The main buildings of the temple are built along a central axis, including Yonghe Gate Hall, Yonghegong Hall, Yongyou Hall. The side buildings flanking them are: Jietai Building, Panchen Building, West Side Hall, East Side Hall, Shilun Hall, Medicine Hall, Exoteric Hall and Esoteric Hall. Before the halls there are three Memorial Archways. Splendid and magnificent, the constructional layout of the temple embodies the characteristics of Manchu, Han, Tibetan and Mongolian cultures.
Yonghe Temple is venerated by all Lamaist believers. In each hall, many Buddha statues are enshrined, and Tangka (scrolled painting) and precious cultural relics are displayed. The three most famous ones are: the Niche of Buddha, which was cared out of nanmu (phoebe nanmu) with three layers of filigree; the Five-Hundred-Arhat Mountain carved out of red sandalwood; and an 18-meter high Buddha which was carved out of one grand piece of white sandalwood.
Since the founding of PRC, the government has attached great important to this ancient temple and allocated large sums of money to renovate it. Party and state Leaders came to inspect it many times. In 1961, it was listed as a major Historic Site under State Protection. The Yonghegong Lama Temple has survived in the 10 turbulent years of Cultural Revolution from 1966-1976, thanks to Premier Zhou Enlai.
In 1981, the ancient temple was reopened to the public.
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