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The Lama Temple, a typical Tibetan monastery, was first built in 1964 by the second emperor of the Qing-dynasty. He had it built as a residence for his fourth son, Prince Gong, who lived there until he was crowned as the new emperor of the Qing-dynasty in 1723 and moved into the emperorâ€™s palace.
The temple grounds were enlargened during Prince Gongâ€™s third reigning period and the temple then received the new name Yonghegong, the so called â€œPalace of harmony and peaceâ€. At the same time the emperorâ€™s secret service, a highly dreaded group of monks trained in Chinese martial arts, moved into the temple.
Prince Gong died very early during his reign in 1735 and as he was to be buried in the Yonghegong, the roof of each building had to be redone with the imperial yellow bricks. It was after the emperorâ€™s burial that the temple was finally transformed into a lamasery and numerous Tibetan-Buddhist monks and Manchurian students moved into the temple.
After the founding of the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China in 1949 the government decided to end the templeâ€™s long lasting neglect and invested large sums of money in the restauration of the Lama Temple. In 1961 it was listed as a major national culture relic worthy to be put under preservation. As so many other temples as well, the Lama Temple was closed during the cultural revolution and reopened for monks and tourists in the 1980s.
The Lama Temple is the biggest Buddhist temple in Beijing and is supposed to be the temple which makes every wish come true. On a map written both in Chinese and English the visitors can admire the vastness of the temple and decide what they want to explore first. The main buildings of Yonghegong are built around a central axis. There are eleven halls and in each of them are many culture relics, pictures of Tangka and Buddhist statues which momentarily are not allowed to be taken pictures of.
The first inner courtyard is framed by a bell tower and a drum tower. Behind the courtyard on either side of a hall can be seen a stele inscripted with an essay about Lamaism from the former emperor Qianlong. The Yonghegong is generally very striking in its appearance as its magnificent construction contains a colourful combination of characteristics from Manchu, Tibetan, Han and Mongolian cultures.