As we entered the complex, the drum tower and bell tower have pride of place, and there are three temples on the other compass points. There’s an interesting picture gallery of the Lama with a description about how he was called to his divine occupation at a very young age (less than 10). The description is a little hard to understand, but it’s worth sticking with. A lone tower houses a revered Bixi (mythical tortoise-like creature) and superb bronze lions look toward the entrance from the complex’s first temple building.
Moving through the complex, each courtyard had its own fire to enable the many worshippers to light their incense sticks. The protocol was fascinating--bless the incense in one of the side temples and then pray to the Buddha with the incense burning. The Buddhas in the Lama temple were amazing, but one in particular has figured in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest Buddha carved out of a single piece of wood. The 55-foot statue is made from sandalwood and is quite unique and so large that I assume the building was created around the Buddha. Whilst we were there, one of the many monks paraded around the temple chanting prayers as he went. The atmosphere in this temple was humbling, as pilgrims knelt before the statue and gazed in awe at its magnificence.
To the rear of the Buddha was a large-relief mini-sculpture depicting Tibetan country scenes with people engaged in "meaningful tasks". It’s incredibly intricate but, amazingly, is not given a high profile. Indeed, many people who had not explored the temple in detail would have missed this masterpiece.
There was a great museum of religious artefacts with photographic and pictorial representations of all the Dali Lamas. A sombre life-size golden effigy looked down on us from a central stage, and high in the eaves sat a couple of elf-like figures, apparently looking out for the central figure.
Although we’d seen dozens of temples, we were thoroughly enchanted by this one. There is some amazing workmanship on show here, and the bright colours of the rooftops and decorated ceilings just scream for your attention. We saw Buddhas surrounded by lotus flowers, swathed in extravagant fabric, and dwarfed by fan-shaped costumes. There is simply loads to feast your eyes on and a constant reminder that this is a dynamic and active religious place. An uplifting experience, and surprises in every crevice of every building!
May 12, 2005
From journal Visiting Outer Beijing