Monday, April 2, 2018

Lama Temple.

After spending a couple of hours walking around the Temple of Heaven, we made our way by metro to the Lama Temple.  The last time I came to the temple, I arrived by foot and from a different direction so when we exited the station, I wasn't sure where the temple was in relation to where we were standing.  As I looked around, I noted the tiled roofs of buildings peeking over a large wall.  My bet was that was the temple complex.

But, before we visited Lama Temple, we went in search of a place for lunch.  This task I leave up to SK because the woman has her radar set for restaurants!  I just followed her and somehow, she managed to find a really nice restaurant called  The outside of the restaurant was pretty big so I was expecting to walk into a large restaurant and indeed it was.   The place was relatively filled with people but we managed to get a table.

Apparently, Jin Ding Xuan is a chain restaurant and the most well known branch is this one near the Lama Temple.  It's also open 24 hours in case you are in the neighborhood at a very odd hour and need a meal.

I was surprised to see that the restaurant offers up mainly Cantonese dishes, including dim sum, with a smattering of Sichuan, Huaiyang and Beijing cuisine.

I let SK and Bro do the ordering and they settled for a mix of dishes - dan dan noodles, rice porridge with lean pork and preserved egg, as well as a few steamer trays of dim sum.

We also ordered some seasonal herbal teas to wash down the meal with.  

We took our time for lunch and when we were ready to go, made our way back towards the station and to the buildings with the tiled roofs peaking over the tall wall.  I was pretty certain that was Lama Temple. find the entrance.

Considering that the entrance could have been on any of four streets, we were lucky that we just happened to walk down the right one.  Instinct told me that they would not locate the metro station all that far away so that narrowed our choice of streets down to just two.  A peek down one of the streets didn't reveal a possible entrance so we took a gamble and walked down our last choice. 


Tickets cost 25 yuan each.

From the ticket office, it's a short walk to enter the temple complex.

Formerly an imperial palace, later converted into a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, the Lama Temple is one of Beijing's most famous monasteries.  It is a monastery of the Gelug (Yellow Hat) sect of Buddhism.  First built in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty, what is now the temple complex was was the residence of Emperor Yongzheng when he was just a prince. However, in 1744 the Qing Dynasty formally changed the status of the dwelling to that of a monastery and it has remained as such until present day.

Again, it would've been helpful to have a map but instead, we just walked around.  From what I remember about this place, I really enjoyed strolling around the complex.  It wasn't crowded in 2009 and walking in today, it seemed to be that way today. 

Of course, there are several notable structures in the complex. The Hall of Heavenly Kings served originally as the main entrance to the monastery. In the center of the hall stands a statue of the Maitreya Buddha, along the walls statues of the four Heavenly Kings are arranged.

The Hall of Harmony and Peace is the main building of the temple. It houses three bronze statues of the Buddhas of the Three Ages - the statue of the Gautama (present) Buddha  is in the center, it is flanked by the statue of Kassapa (past) Buddha and the Maitreya (future) Buddha.

Hall of Harmony and Peace on the right.

At one point, I lost track of the other two so I just contentedly walked around on my own, snapping one photo after another.  On my last visit here, I barely took a handful of photos so I had some making up to do 😁

In one courtyard, a group of monks had congregated.  Usually, you can identify which country monks are from or which sect of Buddhism they represent from their costume.  But these monks were not like any monks I had ever seen before.  For one thing, they had full heads of hair to the point that several had pony tails!  Most Buddhist monks have either clean shaven heads or at least are very closely shorn heads.

So I thought maybe they were Taoist monks but I can't find any images of Taoist monks that match these guys. 

The broad strip of white on their shawl is indicative that these are meditation shawls and perhaps the headbands are also for meditation purposes but what religion do these monks belong to?

It took a bit of research on the web but I think I've come to the conclusion that these are not monks but ngakpa - Tibetan yogis. They are ordained clergy of Vajrayana Buddhism and are non celibate. Their robes are just like the robes of monks and nuns but in their traditional form they keep their hair long and wear a white skirt and red and white shawl instead of the maroon skirt, maroon shawl and shaved heads of their monastic counterparts. However due to the diversity of Tibetan Buddhism, sometimes Ngakpas wear the red and white shawls and maroon skirts, or even civilian clothes plus the red and white shawls.

Mystery solved?

Eventually this Musketeer got reunited with her two compatriot Musketeers.  We were all done with the Lama Temple and ready to head to our next destination.  Time for some snacking!