In a Haze

In a Haze

In a haze of incense
The pilgrims
And the tourists

To Tibet
In the heart of Beijing
It’s so decreed
By The Party

In a haze, like incense
Acrid and choking
In which Beijing
Obscures Tibet

Yonghe Gong
Beijing, China

Taken during travels, 1998

The Lonely Planet refers to this as the “most renowned Tibetan Buddhist temple within China, outside Tibet itself.” Hmmm. What about Xiahe, in Gansu? Or Ta Er, in Qinghai?

Although the monks study Yellow Hat sect teachings, the architecture is not Tibetan in form, the monks do not wear the traditional gold and burgundy robes of Tibetan Buddhism. In fact, there appears to be little to distinguish the grounds and monks here from one of the variety of Mahayana buddhist temples favoured by the Han Chinese majority. The Lonely Planet notes that, at least originally, the monastery was stocked with Yellow Hat monks from Inner Mongolia, rather than Tibet. Indeed, even the form of prayer depicted in this photograph is more typical of Mahayana/Zen, and there are no prayer wheels to be found in this temple.

Yonghe Gong, The Lama Temple as it is popularly known, is traditionally the home of the Panchen Lama, the second most important Tibetan monk, after the Dalai Lama. However, the current Panchen Lama — named by the Dalai Lama — is being held under house arrest, “in order to protect him from being spirited away to exile.” Meanwhile, The Communist Party has designated an acting Panchen Lama, who resides in this temple of Han Chinese fabrication.