The centerpiece of a large walled complex, the colourful Lamaling Temple is a rare example of the Zangtok Pelri style of building. This style, which imitates the 'Glorious Copper Mountain Paradise' of Guru Rinpoche with a three-storey pagoda-like temple, is unique to the Nyingma order. As with all such temples, the ground floor has a statue of Guru Rinpoche, the second Chenresig (Avalokiteshvara), while the top chapel is for Sakyamuni.
The Glorious Copper Mountain is Guru Rinpoche's Pure Land, and has been described as a mountain on an island in the cosmic ocean. The island forms a mandala, which is represented architecturally by the Lamaling complex walls: the temple, with its golden-eaved pagoda structure rising from a square base (itself coloured differently on each side), is the mountain in the centre. Statues of Guru Rinpoche are matched with Chenresig and Öpagme to symbolise his birth legend in which Öpagme imagined a being of perfect enlightenment and compassion, and Chenresig sent a golden vajra (thunderbolt) into a lotus bud to give birth to the guru.
The original Lamaling Temple burned down in the 1930s and a new structure was built on the flat below. In the 1960s this, too, was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. In 1989 work began on the current temple under the supervision of the daughter of Dudjom Rinpoche (1904–87), former head of the Nyingma order, who had his seat at Lamaling. The monastery is home to around 20 monks, 30 nuns and a couple of languid deer.
Take your shoes off before entering the temple – the floor is polished wood. On the ground floor next to the Guru Rinpoche statue look for a stone footprint of the guru on the altar. A passageway behind the altar leads to a mezzanine level with four protector chapels in each corner. Also note the giant coloured prayer beads festooned on the outer walls.
The complex's other main building, to the right, is the assembly hall, where religious services are held on the 10th, 15th and 25th days of each lunar month. The hall is dominated by a huge statue of Sakyamuni and more images of Dudjom Rinpoche wearing his characteristic sunglasses. Pilgrims circumambulate both this building and the main temple.
Lamaling is about 30km south of Bayi, around 4km up from the signposted turn-off 1km south of Buchu Temple.