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Tashihunpo Monastery

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Tashihunpo Monastery

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Tashihunpo Monastery was Founded in 1447 by Gendun Drup who was the nephew and disciple of the famous Buddhist philosopher Je Tsongkhapa and later named the First Dalai Lama, Tashilhunpo Monastery is a historically and culturally significant monastery in central Tibet. Its construction was financed by donations from local nobles. The monastery's structure was expanded by the Fourth and successive Panchen Lamas. Its complex covers an area of nearly 300,000 square meters (3,229,279 sq ft.). Its main structures comprises of the Maitreya Chapel, the Panchen Lama's Palace and the Kelsang Temple. There are now nearly 800 lamas.

Brief introduction[edit]

The monastery is located at the foot of Drolmari (Tara's Mountain) in the center of Shigatse, Tibet’s second largest city, and serves as the traditional seat of successive Panchen Lamas, the second highest ranking tulku lineage in the Gelukpa tradition in Tibetan Buddhism. As Shigatse is a place that travelers must pass by on the way from Lhasa to Kathmandu, the monastery also becomes one of the must-visit sites for tourists.

When standing at the entrance of the Tashilunpo Monastery, travelers can see the grand buildings with golden roofs and white walls. Behind the monastery is the remarkable Thangka wall built by the First Dalai Lama in 1468. The nine floors high wall is used for displaying the images of Buddha on the 14th, 15th and 16th of May in Tibetan Lunar calendar each year.

When strolling into the monastery on the west side of the Tashilhunpo, travelers can find the Maitreya Chapel which houses the biggest statue of a sitting Maitreya Buddha. The statue is as high as 26.2 meters (86 ft) and is decorated with gold, copper, pearl, amber, coral, diamond and other precious stones. It is said that the statue was handcrafted by 900 craftsmen in 9 years. At the east of the chapel is the stupa-tomb of the 10th Panchen Lama. The stupa-tomb built in 1993 is covered by 614 kg gold, 868 precious stones and 246,794 jewels. It is the most splendid and costly mausoleum in modern China. Nearby the stupa-tomb is a grand white palace which is Panchen Lama’s Palace mainly built in the reign of the Six Panchen Lama (1738-1780). To the east of the Panchen Lama's Palace lies the stupa-tomb of the 4th Panchen Lama who is one of the most famous Lamas in Tibetan history and the teacher of the Fifth Dalai Lama. The tomb decorated with gold and silver is the first stupa-tomb in the Tashilhunpo Monastery.

One of the oldest and biggest buildings in the Tashilhunpo is Kelsang Temple, a colossal compound. Its main chanting hall provides lamas a place to learn the sutras and listen to the Panchen Lama's sermon. At the back end of this hall is a five meters high statue of Sakayamuni. On the two sides of the hall are two chapels. The left one houses the goddess who is believed to be the avatar of Avalokitesvara, while the right one houses Maitreya Buddha. The courtyard of the Kelsang Temple is the place for lamas to practice and debate. On the wall around the courtyard, there are thousands of images of Sakyamuni in different postures and expressions.

In the Tashilhunpo Monastery, travelers can also see lots of murals which are considered as masterpieces of Buddhist art due to the variety of shapes, resplendent colors and exquisite painting. They are also good relics for researching Tibet’s history and culture.

As many travelers who travel to Mt. Everest from Lhasa would stay at least one night in Shigatse, the Tashilhunpo Monastery is always on the must-see list.

Getting there[edit]

Shigatse is located at the confluence of the Yarlung Tsangpo or Brahmaputra River and the Nyang River in west Tibet. It is located about 250 km southwest Lhasa, capital of Tibet, and 90 km northwest of Gyantse, a traditional Tibetan town on the way from Lhasa to Shigatse via the famous holy Lake Yamdrok. As the transportation hub for central Tibet and the gateway to the vast western Tibet, Shigatse is linked with several places around Tibet by bus. There are several buses from Lhasa to Shigatse departing every hour each day. Travelers can rent a car to the city if they want to enjoy more freedom on the way. There are also flights to Shigatse from mainland China. After arriving at Shigatse, visitors can go to the Tashilhunpo on foot or by taxi.

Accommodation[edit]

Though Shigatse is Tibet’s second largest city, it is not as developed as those cities in mainland China. There are no 5-star hotels, but there is still a wide range of choices in accommodation, Tibetan-style, hostels, starred hotels from 3 or 4 star ones. Most of them offer reasonably good accommodations and facilities. Most of the hotels offer clean, spacious rooms with private bathrooms as well as a variety of budget hotels with both dorm-style rooms.

Travel Tips[edit]

Opening time: 9:00 am – 17:00 pm Admission Fee: RMB 55

  • Generally, visitors are not allowed to take pictures in temples of Tibet. Ask the lamas for permission before you do it.
  • For those travelers who are interested in Tibetan culture, the best time to visit the Tashilhumpo Monastery is during the Buddha Exhibition Festival that usually erupts for three days from May 14th-16th in Tibetan Calendar every year. The highlight of this festival is that thangkas of different Buddhas would be unveiled on each day during this festival, Dipankara (Buddha of the Past) on the first day, Shakyamuni (Buddha of the Present) on the second day and Maitreya (Buddha of the Future) on the third day.