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Lama and Confucian Temples Walking Tour

Explore Buddhist and Confucian roots in central Beijing
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1.2 miles
Duration: 1-3 hours

Overview :  This half-day walk takes you to two important temples in the heart of Beijing. During the Cultural Revolution, religious buildings and... more »

Tips:  The temples are easily accessible by subway or taxi and are located in Dongcheng, the most historic section of Beijing. While you're... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Subway: Yonghegong Lama Temple, Exit C (Line 5)

From the subway stop for Yonghegong Lama Temple, Exit C (Line 5), follow the signs for Exit C. Once street level, you will be roughly at the intersection of Yonghegong Street and Andigmen Dondajie. Turn left (south) down Yonghegong. The red wall on your left is part of the Lama Temple complex, but you will have to walk approximately 200 meters... More

The temple was originally built for Prince Yong of the Qing Dynasty and was used as his retreat once Yong become emperor. His successor, Emperor Qianlong, changed the palace into a temple devoted to Tibetan Buddhism in 1744. Buddhism spread to China from India and gained popularity in the fourth century. Tibetan Buddhism evolved as a distinct... More

3. Imperial Carriage Pathway

The complex opens up to the tree-lined Imperial Carriage Pathway, so named because the Lama Temple originally served as a royal residence. The canopy of trees and the birds they house work wonders in making the frantic Beijing traffic seem more than just a few meters away.

4. Zhaotai Gate

Here there is a map of the compound and a brief history of the Lama Temple. Four major halls are built on the north-south axis, each one greater than the last. These are active places of worship and photography is not permitted inside the buildings. Passing through Zhaotai, there are several places to rest in the shade as well as watch the diverse... More

5. Yonghe Gate

Directly ahead is the first hall, called Yonghe Gate. Here sits the gilded big-bellied Maitreya Buddha, also known as the future Buddha. He is flanked by the four heavenly kings. Continue through to the other side and directly ahead is Yonghe Hall, which houses past, present and future Buddhas. The name Yonghe refers to the name of the emperor for... More

6. Faiundan Hall

Faiundan, or Hall of the Wheel of Law, is even more richly decorated than the previous halls and has a spacious interior where monks would gather to listen to lectures on sutras, or sacred texts. Take the right side toward the back to see the elevated seat where a photo of the Dalai Lama has the place of honor. The dalai lama is the highest of the... More

7. Wanfu Pavilion

Those who make it to the largest hall on the northern end are rewarded by the sight of a Tibetan Maitreya Buddha, which is 18 meters tall and carved from a single trunk of white sandalwood. The Buddha also extends an unseen 8 meters into the ground, making its total length 26 meters and placing the Maitreya Buddha in the Guinness Book of World... More

8. Banchan Exhibition Hall

If facing the Wanfu Pavilion, the Banchan Exhibition Hall is to the right and slightly behind you (southeast). This houses the Royal Temple of Tibetan Buddhism and dozens of ornate objects are on display, including lavishly embroidered ceremonial robes, a drum made of skulls and gilded incense burners, all used by lamas during the temple's heyday ... More

9. Guozijian Street

As you emerge from the Lama Temple, you will see the entrance to Guozijian Street; the ornate archway is hard to miss. It is across the street and slightly to your right (north). There is a crosswalk, but pay attention because there is no light or stop sign and cars, bikes and buses think frighteningly little of pedestrians. A five-minute stroll... More

As you enter the temple, you will see the Gate of Great Success in front of you and dozens of stone tablets off to each side. The tablets are inscribed with names of elite scholars who passed the highest level of the Imperial Confucian examination, an intense three-day test for those wanting to serve in the top ranks of government.

There are... More

11. Stone Tablets and Ancient Cypress Trees

Passing through the Gate of Great Success, there is a quiet courtyard filled with ossified cypress trees frozen in time. The visitors here seem content with quiet reflection under the shade of the ancient trees. This section is also filled with large stone tablets perched on the backs of strange tortoise-dragons. Even without being able to read... More

12. Da Cheng Hall

The largest structure is Da Cheng Hall, which is filled with musical instruments and vessels used in ceremonies to honor Confucius teachings and in ancestor worship. There is also a small display depicting Confucian ceremonial rituals involving music and dancers.

13. Exhibition Halls

Off to the right and left are the East and West Exhibition Halls, housing the displays "Confucianism and Its Influence" and "Confucianism Abroad." While not terribly riveting, the exhibits help paint a general picture of the philosophy throughout the ages.

The gift shop to the left of Da Cheng Hall sells cold beverages and is worth a peek for a ... More

14. Xu Xiang Zhai Vegetarian

Xu Xiang Zhai Vegetarian is located across from the Confucian Temple and is a great place to dine with monks. Buddhist cuisine is vegetarian but chefs typically go to great lengths to have dishes that appear to be made of meat. Along with tofu they serve vegetarian versions of chicken, beef and pork. The result can be both curious and delicious.... More

15. Subway: Yonghegong Lama Temple

Taking a left out the main entrance, walk back up Guozijian until it hits Yonghegong. Cross the street and take a left; the entrance to Yonghegong Lama Temple station, Exit C (Line 5), will be on your right.