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Top 7 Tibetan Monasteries

We’ve listed the top 7 Tibetan monasteries, their marvelous structural styles and precious collections of religious artworks will feast your eye. You don’t need to be a religious person to appreciate the unique spiritual experience and atmosphere of these monasteries.

Top 7 Tibetan monasteries – Jokhang Temple

The Jokhang Temple, also the Qolkang Monastery, maintained by the Gelug School, sit at the very heart of the city of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. Because of this temple, Lhasa is called the holy city.

This temple houses a precious statue of Sakyamuni at the age of 12, which is the holiest item in Tibet. Princess Wencheng brought this holy statue from the Tang Dynasty and enshrined it in the main hall of Jokhang Temple.

King Songtsen Gampo and his two brides built this temple. The oldest section of the temple was built in 652 AD. During the flowing years, Jokhang Temple was rebuilt and renovated several times and reached today’s scale in the Ming Dynasty. Its architectural style is a blend of Tibetan, Indian, and Nepalese designs.

With more than 1300 years of history, Jokhang Temple is a sovereign in Tibetan Buddhism and accepts all types of worshippers from the different sects of Buddhism. It’s a must-see place for every traveler who visits Tibet. In Tibetan, there’s a saying that Jokhang Temple comes first, then Lhasa city.

For photographers, the best time to shoot this temple is in the morning, when the golden roofs shine under sunlight.

Top 7 Tibetan monasteries – Drepung Monastery

Stands in the western suburb of Lhasa, Drepung Monastery was once the largest monastery, not only in Tibet but also in the rest of the world. Along with “Sera Monastery” and “Ganden Monastery”, they are also famous as the “Great Three Gelug monasteries of Lhasa”.

This large monastery covers an area of about 200,000 square meters and houses 10,000 monks during its peak period. It was built in 1416 by the founder of Gelug Sect, Jamyang Choje, and played a role as not only a monastery but also a college. This monastery is now a center of learning and is one of the primary universities of Buddhist monks. You will still find this monastery bustling with many activities at present.

When you tour the Drepung Monastery, you may get to see the 26-meter gold Maitreya Buddha. Especially during the Shoton Festival, July 1st of the Tibetan calendar, thousands of people come to Drepung Monastery to worship a giant thangka of Buddha. It’s also the best time for travelers to visit Drepung Monastery.

Top 7 Tibetan monasteries – Sera Monastery

Located in the northern suburb of Lhasa, Sera Monastery is the most beautiful monastery. It is one of the great three Gelug monasteries. Its name, “Sera”, means “wild rose” in Tibetan literally. The legend goes that when the wild roses bloomed and covered the hill behind the monastery during its construction.

The Sera Monastery is a complex of structures. It features a great Assembly Hall along with other great three colleges. Jamchen Chojey founded it in the year 1419, just five years after the founding of the Drepung Monastery. This monastery suffered severe damages in 1959 and has been renovated since then.

One of the best things to do when you visit Sera Monastery is to witness the highly anticipated debate sessions of monks in the afternoon. You’d better visit it in the afternoon from Monday to Saturday since monks in traditional red robes will debate about Buddhism in the courtyard during that period.

Top 7 Tibetan monasteries –  Ganden Monastery

This monastery is located some 40 kilometers northeast of Lhasa. It is perched on a natural hilly amphitheater. The Ganden Monastery or Gaden Monastery belongs to the three great Tibetan university monasteries. The full name of this temple is “Ganden Langerin”. Ganden is from the pronunciation of Tibetan, which means “lead to the sky”. This is the world that Buddha Maitreya will teach in the future. The monks of Gandan Temple worship “Pure Land”.

the founder of the Gelug Sec—Je Tsongkhapa Lozang-dragpa founded this monastery in the year 1409. He died in this monastery. And his disciples entombed his body in a gold and silver encrusted tomb. Its main temple features large statues and three-dimensional mandalas. Unfortunately, this monastery was destroyed in 1959 and has been rebuilt partially.

For hundreds of years, the successors to the seat of Tsongkhapa, Gandan Chiba, leader of the Gelug sect lived here. The temple also preserves more than ninety stupa towers of the successive Gandan Chibas. And it contains many cultural relics and crafts since the Ming Dynasty.

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Top 7 Tibetan monasteries –  Samye Monastery

King Trisong Detsen built Samye Monastery in the 8th century.  And it has been in existence for more than 1,200 years. It’s the first Buddhist monastery (Gompa) in Tibet. It is located in central Tibet, in the Mchms Phy Valley, south of the city of Lhasa and next to the Hapori Mountain of the Yarlung Valley.

It has a unique architectural design patterned after a giant mandala—a geometric configuration of the universe. The main temple, positioned at the center of the monastery, represents Mount Meru and the other buildings stand at the main temple’s cardinal points and corners.

As the Temple of Unchanging Spontaneous Presence, it also played a critical role in the history of Tibet.  King Triton Detsen constructed this monastery between 787 and 791.  The Samye pillar and the Samye bell bear remarkable inscriptions that show the records of the building of the temple and the bell.

Top 7 Tibetan monasteries –  Tashi Lhunpo Monastery

The Tashilhunpo Monastery is a historical and cultural site in Shigatse. Founded in 1447, it’s famous for being the home of the Panchen Lama. He made this monastery his traditional seat.

This monastery is on a hill at the very center of the city and covers an area of 150,000 square meters. If you visit this monastery, you can join the pilgrims who circumambulate the monastery on the sacred path outside its walls.

The Tashilhunpo Monastery is noteworthy for the largest statue of the Future-Buddha or Maitreya in China. Moreover, the trip to Tashilhunpo Monastery is usually in most Lhasa-Shigatse tours. You will surely find this monastery if you go to Shigatse.

Top 7 Tibetan monasteries –  Rongbuk Monastery

Rongbuk Monastery is famous as the highest monastery in the world, with an elevation of 4,980 meters above sea level, near the north side of Mount Everest,  at Dzakar Chu Valley’s end. It was an area for meditation, and a Lama founded this monastery in 1902.

This monastery is a very significant site for pilgrims. Moreover, expeditionary teams of climbers regularly visited this monastery. They can reach it by road from the Friendship Highway. So, if you’re going to visit the base camp, you will surely get to visit this monastery.

The Rongbuk Monastery is a unique monastery because it houses both nuns and monks under its roof. It is also the best platform for those who want to get a glimpse of the highest mountain in the world—Mount Everest. During the Saga Dawa Festival, on the 15th day of the Tibetan Calendar’s fourth month, there is usually a big celebration in this monastery.

To immerse in Tibetan culture and gain deep knowledge about Tibetan Buddhism, the best way is to visit Tibetan monasteries.

Monasteries were once the centers of learning. Right now, it’s still the havens sites where millions of Tibetan people express their wishes and receive happiness from Buddha. So you will find that the brief here is the air.  And you will also find the spiritual home of Tibetan Buddhists. With a unique religious background, Tibet is home to more than 6,000 monasteries and temples.  And most of the monasteries stand on the mountaintops.

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