Right next to the first hostel we stayed in Beijing was the Yonghegong (雍和宮 or Yōnghé gōng) – the largest Lama Temple in Beijing. 宮 (gōng) actually means palace – a reminder that this temple was once a palace that was eventually fully converted to a Lama Temple. It managed to survive the Cultural Revolution under the protection of Zhou Enlai so it is also the most well preserved temple in Beijing.
Once inside the temple grounds you don’t hear the hustle and bustle of the streets of Beijing. This is always something that amazed me about Chinese temples and palaces – even in today’s huge cities they manage to keep the noise out and create a calm-sounding atmosphere.
The other thing that always amazes me about these places is what I call the Tardis effect – The inside of the temple always seems a lot larger than the outside. Nearly every time I’ve been in a Chinese temple I’ve been unable to figure out how they fit it all in.
Unusually at this temple I noticed they were handing out incense for free. Usually temples in China will charge for this, but this was a Tibetan temple, and just like at all Tibetan temples the incense is free. They still have the donation boxes of course, but these are voluntary.
Through the first gate we saw an incense burner. The sign clearly stated in Chinese not to throw any coins at it in order to help preserve it. It was surrounded by people throwing coins, trying to get them to land on top of it.
Inside the main temple building are statues of the past, future and present Buddhas. Unfortunately since no photos are allowed I decided to respect those rules and didn’t take any.