If you only visit one temple after the Temple of Heaven, this should be it. A complex of progressively larger buildings topped with ornate yellow-tiled roofs, Yonghe Gong was built in 1694 and originally belonged to the Qing prince who would become the Yongzheng emperor. As was the custom, the complex was converted to a temple after Yongzheng's move to the Forbidden City in 1744. The temple is home to several rather beautiful incense burners, including a particularly ornate one in the second courtyard that dates back to 1746. The Falun Dian (Hall of the Wheel of Law), second to last of the major buildings, contains a 6m (20-ft.) bronze statue of Tsongkapa (1357-1419), the founder of the reformist Yellow Hat (Geluk) sect of Tibetan Buddhism, which is now the dominant school of Tibetan Buddhism. He's easily recognized by his pointed cap with long earflaps. The last of the five central halls, the Wanfu Ge (Tower of Ten Thousand Happinesses), houses the temple's prize possession -- an ominous Tibetan-style statue of Maitreya (the future Buddha), 18m (59 ft.) tall, carved from a single piece of white sandalwood. Once something of a circus, Yonghe Gong is slowly starting to feel like a place of worship, as there are now many Chinese devotees of Tibetan Buddhism.
- © Frommer's 2013
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