Audio File length: 2.26
English / USA Language: English / USA

The Yonghe Temple, also known as the Hall of Harmony and Peace, is a Buddhist monastery of the followers of the Dalai Lama. It is the largest in China and the best preserved.

The temple was built in 1694, during the Qing dynasty, where one of the residences housing the eunuchs of the emperor’s court once stood. It was replaced with a residence destined for Prince Yong. When the prince became emperor in 1722, half of the building was used as a monastery for Tibetan Buddhist monks, while the remaining part continued to be used as a palace.

After his death, in 1735, Emperor Yongzheng’s body was displayed in this temple in accordance with his wishes, and his successor, Emperor Qianlong, proclaimed it an imperial temple. The turquoise roof tiles were thus replaced with yellow ones, the color associated with emperors.

Over the years, the monastery was home to a large number of Tibetan Buddhist monks, from Mongolia and Tibet, and it became the center of worship of the Dalai Lama’s followers in China.

In 1949, at the end of the civil war, the temple was declared a national monument, and remained closed to the public for 32 years. It was not reopened until 1981, and is still an active monastery, where dozens of monks live.

The architecture of the Yonghe Temple is a blend of Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhism and Chinese culture: the buildings are in Chinese style, while the furnishings are mixed, and the inscriptions are in four languages: Chinese, Mongolian, Tibetan and Manchu.

As soon as you enter the first courtyard, you’ll be able to note the origins of the imperial palace, with its red walls and the two stone lion statues symbolizing power.

The monastery is made up of five courtyards, with a variety of buildings looking onto them. In the next file, I’ll take you through the most important ones.


An interesting fact: during the Cultural Revolution, in the 1960s, many temples were destroyed, but this one is said to have survived thanks to the intervention of the prime minister at the time, Zhou Enlai.

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