The Yonghe Lamasery lies on the east side of the Yonghe Street in Dongcheng District, Beijing.
The Yonghe Lamasery is the largest one among the lamaseries in Beijing. It was formerly the office of the eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). In the 33rd
year (1694) of Emperor Kangxi's reign in the Qing Dynasty, the residence of Prince Yinzheng was built on the site, and since then it became a group of buildings in comparative large scale. After Prince Yinzheng ascended the throne, who was known as Emperor Yongzheng, the residence was also renamed Yonghe Lamasery, where in fact was the office of secret agents and also the center for Emperor Yongzhen to carry out secret activities. When Emperor Yongzhen passed away in the 13th
year (1735) of the Yongzheng reign, the coffin was placed in the lamasery, and therefore in order to show respect, all the buildings were covered with yellow glazed tiles. Since then the Yonghe Lamasery became a place where the emperors of the Qing Dynasty enshrined and worshiped their ancestors, and therefore there were always large numbers of lamas chanting the sutras for the deceased all year round. In the 9th
year (1744) of Emperor Qianlong's reign, it was formally converted into a lamasery.
The lamasery has five rows of courtyards and the main structures are the Screen Wall, the Memorial Arch, and the Gate of the Lamasery, the Heavenly King Hall, the Main Hall, and the Hall of Everlasting Protection, the Hall of Law Wheel, the Pavilion of Eternal Happiness and so on. The structure of the front of the lamasery is quite different from that of the back. The front looks open and clear, while the back looks compact and orderly. With interlaced halls and pavilions, crisscross upturned eaves and connecting house ridges, the lamasery also enjoys the combination of the different structure styles of Han, Mongolian, Manchu, and Tibetan ethnic groups.
The Hall of Law Wheel is famous for its unique models. There are five little pavilions standing upright on the gable and hip roof.On top of each is a small lama tower. It is a combination of the traditional lamasery structure of Han people and the religious structure of Tibet. The hall enshrines a bronze statue ofTsongkhapawith a height of 15 meters. Behind the hall, there is a mountain of Arhats carved out of sandalwood. The five hundredArhatsare all made of gold, silver, bronze, iron and tin.
The Pavilion of Eternal Happiness is the most magnificent structure in the lamasery, with three storeys. The famous statue of Laughing Buddha, carved out of one square meter ofsandalwood, is 26 meters high and stands in the pavilion. It is one of the big wood-carved statues of Buddha extant in China. Thepavilion is connected on both sides with the Yongkang Pavilion and the Yansui Pavilion by suspense plank roads. Thus these three are connected in to a magnificent and magnified group of structures.
The mountain of five hundred Arhats, big statue of Buddha carved out of sandalwood and shrines made of Nanmu with golden filigree are called the Three Rarest Things in the Yonghe Lamasery. In addition, the Yonghe Lamasery is well known for its rich collection of precious religious relics, where important activities of Lamaism are held in Beijing.