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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Beijing: Lama Temple

One of the days that we were in Beijing, we rode the bikes that we rented at the Happy Dragon Hostel to the Yonghe Palace Lama Temple, the best-known Tibetan Buddhist temple outside of Tibet, according to Lonely Planet. Indeed, it is the most amazing temple that I've seen so far in China. There were several buildings ornately decorated in blue, red & gold spread out around the complex, prayer flags waving on cords strung between the curly roof tops.

The temple houses several beautiful statues of Buddha in various poses, but the one that really captured my attention was the Maitreya Buddha, a massive 26 meter (85 foot)-high statue carved out of one piece of sandalwood. The statue is inside one of the temple's buildings, & way too big to fit through the door. They must have placed the statue first, then built the structure around it.

Standing at his giant feet, I had to crane my neck to see the Buddha's face & even then I couldn't really get a good look. I was mesmerized. I wanted to go up to a higher floor to look the Buddha in the eye, but they weren't allowing visitors up there. I stood staring at the statue from below while Debra took clandestine photos - no flash. (I'd love to show them to you, but I'm still having problems uploading photos to Blogger.)

We walked around the rest of the complex, watching as the faithful burned incense & bowed three times offering prayers. There was even a small museum there displaying remarkable examples of Tibetan religious art, including small bronze statues, weavings, & colorfully painted mandalas.

Outside the temple complex, the streets were lined with tea houses & shops selling religious items, Tibetan textiles & jewelry. I love all the swirly Tibetan patterns & bright colors. They make me happy. We did a little shopping, then took a quick look at the nearby Confucius Temple before hopping back on the bikes & heading north toward the Olympic Park.

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