What is it:
Back in the day (1694), court eunuchs resided in the original complex of the Lama Temple and served the emperor of the Forbidden city. Interestingly, other than not having, ahem, some of the anatomy of fellow-men, eunuchs didn’t have it all that bad. Think of the most privileged of the bunch as Varys from Game of Thrones. They ran the daily operations of the imperial court, in various capacities, from 220 BC to the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911. They also vied for power with military officials and other politicians. Some even chose the profession to escape the clutches of poverty. A “small” price to pay for the possibility of wealth and power.
Eventually, Prince Yongzheng heir to the imperial throne, took up residence here. After his accession in 1722, half of the temple was turned into a lamasery and the entire complex was converted in 1744.
Of particular note in the temples are the three statues of the Buddhas of the Three Ages (pictured above) and a 26m tall White Sandalwood statue of the Maitreya Buddha.
How to pray:
Today, tourists and faithful alike visit the temple. Upon entering the complex, the smell of incense may already be noticeable. If you want to have your prayers heard, there is a very specific way of doing it. The number three plays in important role in the ritual. Basically, you have to light three incense sticks and bow three times in all four directions, but that is a definite oversimplification. An extensive article on the subject can be found here.
But ladies, be forewarned, there are certain “times” of the month when your prayers will not be heard. The following excerpt was taken from Theworldofchinese.com (the source of the link above).
Menstruation: For some reason, praying while having your period is futile. If it’s that time of the month, then don’t bother visiting a temple, as your prayers will fall on deaf ears.
Location: No.12,Yonghegong Road,Dongcheng District, Beijing, 100007, China.
Cost: 25 Yuan entrance / 50 Yuan audio guide
Open: 9am to 4:30 pm