No. 50: Xihuang Temple, Beijing

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on March 18, 2013.)

The gate is all most people see at Xihuang Temple (西黄寺), Beijing (北京); the grounds are closed to the public.
July 10, 2011 - Ah, Xihuangsi! One of the best temples I've never seen!

Though I was able to visit Tongjiao Temple by waiting until the 15th day of the lunar month, I wasn't allowed into Xihuang (West Yellow) Temple at all.

The first time I went, the front gate was locked, and I found my way around the side to a small vehicular gate. I walked past the guard and waved, turning left toward the rear of the grounds and my main goal.

The White Pagoda contains the clothing and books of the Sixth Panchen Lama. He had come to Beijing from Tibet in order to celebrate the Qianlong emperor's birthday in 1780; when he died in Beijing later that year, the emperor order the magnificent "Diamond Throne" built.

The pictures I've seen show a central white barrel-like pagoda of superb design, with four pillars resembling minarets, one on each corner of the elevated base.

Alas, as I passed from the first compound into the second, a lay staff member caught up with me and turned me back. This was all the more surprising because every website and guidebook I had consulted said the temple was open. It is one of the 142 designated for visitors, so I was understandably confused. All I saw of this exquisite pagoda was the top of the central piece, spied over a wall, from a distance.

On a subsequent visit (I tried several times!) a local worker told me that the grounds were always off-limits. And a book I read said that one intrepid American got in only by joining an official group from the German embassy.

I suspect this may have something to do with the high-level Lamaist college located there, or perhaps the residence of a certain August Personage?

GPS Info:
  • 39.963689,116.390458



The main gate of Xihuang Temple in Beijing--almost all I saw there. (postcard above)
Detail of the main gate showing Tibetan script
A very Tibet-y wall panel with the Wheel of Dharma
The top of the White Pagoda over the wall, using a telephoto lens

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