The 18-meter high statue of Maitreya is a messianic Buddhist figure. It 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 is underground, lest it topple over, which is of special concern now that Beijing’s subway system rattles right underneath the temple.
The spectacular Lama Temple, also known as Yanghe Temple, Harmony and peace palace Lamasery, was originally the home of Qing dynasty Prince Yong before he became the Emperor Yongzheng, which is why you’ll see the golden roof tiles of an imperial residence. After his elevation in 1723 he kept with tradition by making a portion of the grounds into a lamasery for Tibetan monks, and another part became the headquarters for his terror posse and secret intelligence agency