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    The spectacular Lame Temple was originally the home of Qing dynasty Prince Yong before he became the Yongzheng emperor. After his elevation in 1723 and in keeping with tradition, he made a portion of the grounds into a lamasery (Tibetan Buddhist monastery) and another part became headquarters for his terror posse and secret intelligence agency. The former is why the temple bears the golden roof tiles of an imperial residence.

    The temple is invariable filled with equal arts monks, worshippers and tourists. At SpringFestival it teems with the devout praying for luck in the coming year. On the last day of the first lunar month, monks perform ‘Devil Dances’

    wearing fantastic masks of huge animal heads. The incense burners are authentic cultural treasures; the one in the second courtyard dates to 1746. Impossible to miss is the 18-meter high statue of Maitreya in the last buildingIt was made from a single piece of sandalwood given by the Dalai Lama to Emperor Qianlong in 1750-it took .three years to ship from Nepal to Beijing.

    The building that houses this Buddha of the Future was erected after the statue was carved. If Maitreya looks shorter than 18 meters, it’s because part of the statue in underground, lest it topple over, especially since Beijing’s subway system rattles right underneath the temple.