Friday was my first full day and since I was feeling fresh I dove straight in to sightseeing. First stop, Lama Temple. Lama Temple was originally a residence for court eunuchs, but it was converted in to a home for monks in the 18th century.
I am not a great sightseer but Lama Temple was conveniently located so it took minimal effort to get myself over there. I paid my entry fee and followed the other visitors to pick up the complimentary bundle of incense.
A sign over the incense dispensary instructed to “burn three sticks of incense” but the first thing I saw when I stepped in to the main courtyard was a number of people burning their whole bundle. Being myself, I immediately went in to agonies over whether it was more correct to follow their lead or to limit myself to the instructed three sticks.
I succumbed to mimicry, and joined the group lighting their bundles over the flames. I took my burning incense, kneeled on the kneeling device, executed a few bows, and prayed that I hadn’t done anything unlucky or offensive. After my little ritual was complete, I dumped my burden and wandered off to explore.
The primary decorations of the Lama Temple are buddhas. Paintings of buddhas, statues of buddhas, and one 18 meter tall carved image of Maitraya the future buddha. Buddha statues aren’t exactly a novelty to me since I’ve visited many around the world but this temple has quite a collection of tantric Buddhas. These are all statues of Buddhas entangled with consorts, except displayed with modesty blankets. I couldn’t help but be amused by the heads poking out above the blankets, leaving their dirty deeds up to the imagination.
As I wandered through the halls I continued to observe the incense burners. Many appeared to be rationing their sticks in order to burn at each station, and offerings of unburned incense were made as well. It may have been a bit rash to burn them all at once but at least I didn’t have to carry them around for the entire visit.
From Lama Temple it was another easy walk to the Temple of Confucius. I am not very learned when it comes to Confucius, but he has earned his spot as a fascinating historical figure. The information scattered around the complex was of variable level of interest but it was enough to make me want to learn more.
The temple in the complex was built in 1302, but most of the other buildings were built in later expansions. Of greater interest to me were the trees. There were a number of beautiful, gnarled old Cypress trees over seven hundred years old. I wandered around appreciating the peacefulness of the complex, and smiled at a woman making beautiful sounds with a brass musical device.