Yonghe Temple, also known as the Lama Temple, is a functioning Tibetan Buddhist temple. It has art treasures that have survived many changes to today where you will find it a popular site for locals and visitors alike. The fact the monastery is still operating is all the more remarkable because construction commenced centuries ago in 1694 during the Qing dynasty. It was originally built as the residence of Prince Yong, who later became Yongzheng Emperor. In 1725, it was converted to a temporary imperial palace called Yonghe Palace.
In 1711, Qianlong Emperor, fourth son of the Yongzheng Emperor, was born in this building. Because two emperors were associated with location, it was considered most auspicious and regarded as a ‘blessed land that gives birth to emperors’. As such, it was given rights to use yellow glazed tiles and red walls, just like at the Forbidden City. In 1744, it was converted to a lamasery by edict of the Qianlong Emperor. It then became the administration center of Tibetan Buddhism. The building is considered the perfect fusion of Han (Chinese) Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism through the blending of the architectural style of the buildings and many artworks. Today, a continuous stream of worshippers and pilgrims visit the temple, especially on the first day of Chinese New Year. The famous cham dance performed by the monks of Yonghe temple during the Dharma Assembly (usually held in the last week of the first lunar month and lasts 8 days) is the main highlight of this temple. Other sites in close proximity (about five minutes walk) are the Confucius Temple and Imperial College Museum.