THE LAMA TEMPLE Description — The Noise House — Lama Students — Trouble with One — Friend ship with the Priests—Open-air Worship—A Priest uses his Beads— A Lesson in Perspective—The Great Buddha—Dress of the Lamas.
The Lama group of temples is in the north-east corner of the Tartar city, and was built as an Imperial Palace by the son of the famous Kang hi. The entrance is at the northern end of the Hata Men street. There is a fine specimen of a highly de corated pailau in front of the first gateway. Neither the priests nor students bear a good character. I was told they were of the lowest, and can well believe it ; but I did not concern myself with this, my thoughts being directed to the question whether they would allow me to work in peace. Passing in by the third gateway, I found myself in a large paved courtyard surrounded by a high red wall roofed with yellow tiles. In front of me was a yellow-roofed temple raised from the courtyard and reached by a flight of stone steps, at each end of which were gigantic and most beautifully wrought bronze lions. The Lamas, being under direct Imperial patron age, use the Imperial yellow.
In each corner of this courtyard is a double-roofed sexagonal building covering memorial tablets. The one on the right, near the gate, is used as a sort of drum tower. I might more correctly describe it as a noise house. Here are not only drums, but other instruments on which, at stated hours, the most hideous noises are made, to call or direct the students to the various prayers and ceremonies. There is also a sort of horn which, blown by the strong-lunged Lama gatekeeper, emits a horrible roar. It brought into this courtyard swarms of yellow-robed students, boys in ages ranging from about twelve or fourteen to about twenty. They added to the noise.
When I was seen to put up my easel, and on it a sheet of white board, there was a rush made for me. They crowded up so close as almost to overwhelm me, and at first refused to move at all. I told my boy to drive them back ; but he was too frightened to do that, and, when I told him to speak to them, he made the excuse that they " no b'long Chinese, all same Lama man." I had, therefore, to put my shoulder to, and managed to push them back and make a small circle ; but they did not all like this. Fortunately for me, that
horn roared again, and in a moment I was left. They rushed off towards the centre of the courtyard. Priests, apparently their teachers, had arrived. The youths divided into groups, each with a teacher who proceeded to harangue them. As there were at least six or eight groups, and the teachers were all lecturing at once, the students joining in at times, it was a perfect Babel of sound, and I began to wonder how long I could work in such a din. But many months' work throughout China had impressed on me the value of patience. The noisy scene was one of splendid barbaric beauty. The wide paved courtyard, with fine trees dotted about at either side—the great yellow-roofed temple, with wide steps leading up to it—the lesser buildings at the cor ners—made a most impressive setting for the groups of yellow-robed students gathered in groups first, and then, at a fresh signal, all joining in one central group round a priest and kneeling on the stone pavement, with the brilliant sunlight over all. A tree or bit of building cast a shadow here, and emphasised the light there, showed up the newer yellow robe against the older, dis coloured one, glinted on a bit of red under-dress or blue sock. I was indeed fortunate to see such a ceremony on my first visit at the Lama Temple. This open-air worship and lecture takes place once a month, and I took care to be present on subsequent occasions, by which time I was not so much an object of curiosity to the Lamas. During my first day or two at this place I had considerable difficulty with some of the students. They would stand right in my view, and were not very ready to move when asked. One day a biggish youth persistently stood blocking my view. I signed to him to move ; but he took no notice. I told my boy to tell him he was in my way, and to move to one side. I saw him answer my boy, but still he did not move. My boy reluctantly told me, " He talkee this b'long he, no' b'long you." I quietly laid down my palette ; and, with a sudden movement, I had him by the scruff of the neck, and ran him across the courtyard and out of the gate. I walked quietly back and went on with my work, remarking to my boy, " Now b'long my." The crowd laughed, taking it all as a huge joke.