Tibet Top Ten Monasteries
According to statistics released in 2013, Tibet boasts over 1780 monasteries, among which 1780 are dedicated to Tibetan Buddhism, while over 88 belong to Bon religion( Tibetan indigenous faith) . Generally speaking, each 2,000 Tibetans will have a monastery of their own.
Rich in epic natural splendor,bewildering cultural heritages and thin in oxygen, Tibet is a really a place that will take your breath away. Thanks to billions of years’ tectonic movement, it rises as the World Roof. Now, this dream land with a wealth of sights, color, deeply religious populace and captivating festivals, is destined to enthrall artists, photographers, romantics and pilgrims alike for eternity.
For travelers, the best way to understand this ancient land, a unparalleled spiritual and a cradle of one of the most enlightened civilization in Asia, is through its faith: Tibetan Buddhism. The best places to have a glimpse into this religion, are its top 10 monasteries and cloisters dispersed haphazardly across this magic land.
Towering above Wangbur Mountain elevated at over 3800m, Gandan Monastery(甘丹寺) sits within Tagtse County(达孜县) and is 57km from Lhasa. Together with Drepung Monastery(哲蚌寺) and Sera Monastery(色拉寺), they form Lhasa Top Three Monasteries. Its fame originating from its founder: Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), who is the creator of Geluk School or Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Consisting of 50 complexes, this imposing temple ranks first among Tibetan Top Six Geluk Monasteries. Its collection of murals, paintings, statues and artifacts worth appreciation. In October 25 (Tibetan calendar), it will see Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival take place. Regarding scale, it even excels Shoton Festival. This festival commemorating the death of Tsongkhapa, involves a solemn ritual during which a 26-meter-long and 10-meter-wide Buddha painting will be exhibited and tens of thousands of butter lamps be lit up. In 2013, it will occur in December 27. Take a bus from the station in front of Jokhang Monastery, you will arrive it in around two hours.
Sera Monastery is famous for the daily debates initiated by monks from Monday to Friday. Incorporating witty talks, cunning questions and myriad gestures such as clapping the opponents’ hands, pushing their shoulders and plucking their prayer beads, their debate is entertaining and enlightening if you can understand their dialogues. For these monks, debate is their obligatory course and will determine their future titles. It will start at 15:00pm and last for one and half a hour. Besides, this temple is home to timeworn murals, so why not can bring a flashlight to see them.( Fee:45RMB Advised tour hour: 2 to 3 hours add: the outskirt of Lhasa(拉萨市郊约8公里的根培乌孜山的南山坳里 )
Drepung Monastery (哲蚌寺)
Built in 1416, it is the biggest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in China. During its heyday, it boasts over 141 mansions, 540 pastures and 10,000 monks, which testified to the growing influence of Greluk school of Tibetan Buddhism. Prior to the construction of Potala Palace, it was the abode of Dalai Lamas. Sutras (Buddhist scriptures) are displayed on its first and second floor respectively. A 15-meter-high (49 ft) sculpture of the 8-year old Maitrey Buddha (the future Buddha) contained on the third floor, is the most striking and prestigious. In the second floor, it contains a holy mirror which can cure facial diseases as long as you gaze into it.
Drepung Monastery is famous for Shoton Festival, which usually fall on each August. It begins with the unfurling of a giant thangka banner of the Buddha and culminates with Tibetan opera performance. Monks use this chance to celebrate their newfound freedom by enjoy yogurt presented by pilgrims, meet their family members or seek contemplation in
It houses tens of thousands of columns of sutras and tantras, life-size and well-proportioned statues as well as palatial murals depicting various gods.
Multiple Buddha incarnations and s the forests. Time your visit during this time, you will be overwhelmed by the touching recitation voices, the piecing sound of bugles, the swirling incense smoke, the intriguing Tibetan opera show and colorful parades.
Galden Jampaling Monastery(强巴林寺Qiangbalin Monastery )
Gracing the skyline of southern Tibet, Yongbulakang Temple is Tibet’s first palace and one of the most ancient establishments. Dwarfing on the Zhaxiciri Hill, this fortress-like temple shrouded in mystery worth two hours’ exploration. Legend has it that it was built by devout Bon followers in the 2rd century for their first king. During the 7th century, it was the summer palace of Songtsen Gampo and his Chinese wife, Princess Wencheng. In the 17th century, it underwent dramatic transformation and morphed into a temple dedicated to Yellow Hat Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. A sutra falling from sky and its peculiar architecture are two highlights.
Built during the 7th century, Changzhu Monastery belongs to Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It sits in southern Tibet named Shannan, which gets its name from its location at the southern foot of Mt Kailash, Tibet’s most revered divine mountain which is deemed as the center of the cosmos. A 2-meter-long and 1.2-meter-wide tangka studded with 29026 pearls, gold, diamonds and various precious gems including ruby, sapphire, turquoise coral, stands out as the most precious treasure it contains. (open period: 9:00-16:00 Fee: 70RMB Get in: hire a car in Zedang Town Nearby sights: Yongbulakang Monastery and Tomb of Tibetan King Add: Gongburi Mountain, eastern bank of Yagong River, south Tibet(山南雅砻河东岸的贡布日山南麓)
Gama Monastery (噶玛寺)
Situated in the serene valley running through by Zhaqu River, Gama Monastery is the ancestor temple of Gaju sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Built in 1185, it houses a 17-meter-high clay Buddha statue, which is the biggest in this area. Its architecture is a perfect blend of Tibetan, Han Chinese and Nakxi influences. Inside of its cloisters, halls and chambers, you can see abundant relics of various dynasties, such as the wooden plaque engraved with dragon motifs offered by Emperor Yongle during Ming Dynasty(1368-1644), over 100 gilded bronze statues, arrays of beautiful porcelains and aged sutras. It is also the earliest sect which adopts reincarnation system of Living Buddhas.
Located 60km west of Lhasa, it reigns as a prominent Geju sect (Yellow Hat Sect) of Tibetan Buddhism monastery. This over 800-year-old spiritual sanctuary is the birthplace of reincarnation system of Living Buddhas. Notable festivals include Yak Butter Lantern Festival occurring in January 15 (Tibetan Buddhism). Though it pale in comparison to the one held in Kumbum Monastery in Qinghai province, various artworks made of yak butter still can mesmerize you immediately when lit up.
Tips: Fee: 40RMB open hour: 09：00-14：00 Add: Gurong Township, Deqing County, Lhasa(拉萨寺堆龙德庆县古榕乡)
Tashilhunpo Monastery (Zhashenlunbu Monastery扎什伦布寺)
It is the biggest lamasery in Shigatse. During the past, it was the abode of Panchen Lamas, which can rival Potala Palace inhabited by Dalai Lamas. Together with Drepung , Sera and Ganden Monastery, they constitute Top Four Monasteries of Greluk sect. The most extraordinary treasure it harbors is the 26.2-meter-high statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha. It is the biggest one of its kind on earth. To cast this statue, over 115,700kg of bronze and 335kg of gold were used. Its eyebrows are embedded with over 1400 pieces of pearls, diamonds and other jewelries.
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