Tashilhunpo Monastery is the largest monastery in Shigatse, the center of religion, politics and culture in Tsang region and the seat of Panchen Lama. Tashilhunpo Monastery and three major monasteries (Sera Monastery, Ganden Monastery and Drepung Monastery) in Lhasa are referred as Four Greatest Monasteries of Tibetan Gelugpa Sects. Combined with Kumbum Monastery in Qinghai and Labrang Monastery in Gansu, they become the Six Greatest Monasteries.
Occupying an area of 150,000 square meters, Tashilhunpo Monastery is surrounded by 3000-meter-long wall. The whole monastery was constructed against the background of mountain, facing to the sun. There are 58 sutra chapels and about 3600 rooms. In Tashilhunpo Monastery, you can see many erected buildings with golden glazed tiles, interlaced red walls and white walls and Thangka Exhibit Platform. You can also meet these pilgrims from afar.
Tashilhunpo Monastery was originally founded in 1447 by Gendun Drup who was one disciple of Tsongkhapa – the founder of Gelugpa Sect and recognized as first Dalai Lama after his Death. He employed skilled craftsmen from Tibet Nepal to make statues of Buddha financed by Tibetan Nobles. In 1459, Tashilhunpo Monastery began to take shape and enjoyed several Buddhist palaces, statues of Buddha and hundreds of Lamas. In 1601, the fourth Panchen Lama took charge and preached to raise funds to expand this monastery. Because of his elaboration, Tashilhunpo Monastery got the equal status of three major monasteries in Lhasa. From the fourth Panchen Lama, it became the seat of Panchen Lama. Nowadays, the 11th Panchen Lama lives and met the followers and visitors in Tashilhunpo Monastery.
In sacred Tashilhunpo Monastery, you’ll have a grand view of buildings with Tibetan style, statues of Buddha and precious art and culture relics, and you will also have a culture encounter to feel the melting devotion.
Chapel of Jamba (强巴佛殿), also called Maitreya Temple, is standing out in the east side of Tashilhunpo Monastery. First built in 1914 by the ninth Panchen Lama, it remains its great majesty and solemnity. Chapel of Jamba is a five-story palace with two winding corridors below. It is a fieldstone-lined chapel with a height of 30 meters and an area of 862 square meters. In Chapel of Jamba sits a gigantic statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha. Based on in the 3.8-meter high lotus-shaped foundation, this statue is the largest and tallest bronze figure of Buddha in the world, 26.2 meters high and 11.5 meters wide across shoulder. It was 110 craftsmen who spent 4 years building this great achievement. You can find valuable stones like diamonds, pearls and ambers inset in the body of the statue of Jamba apart from gold and brass going into his coating, showing followers’ deeply respect to him. There are also over 1,000 gold paintings of Jamba on the walls.
You can see 3 stupas (班禅灵塔) towering high in Tashilhunpo Monastery. The oldest is the stupa of the fourth Panchen Lama. For the fourth Panchen Lama has far-reaching impression on Tibet and made great contribution to Tashilhunpo Monastery, his followers constructed a magnificent stupa for him. Measuring 11 meters and containing 85 kg of gold and countless semi-precious stones, this stupa rivals in Potala Palace for the splendor of its craftsmanship and jewels. The fifth to ninth Panchen Lamas’ multi-burial stupa was constructed by the tenth Panchen Lama under the support of government after the destruction. The osseous remains of five Panchen Lamas are placed in the stupa Tashi Langyar and the accomplishments of them are painted on the surrounding walls. The stupa of the tenth Panchen Lama is the largest one which covers 253 square km. The body of stupa reaches 11.55 meters. Countless jewels bestrewed on the tower must catch your eyes. In addition, abundant food, medicinal materials, sutras and cassocks are also collected here.
The Panchen Lama's Palace (班禅宫殿) is the place where the successive Panchen Lamas lived. It is a white palace containing many inscriptions and embroidered silk Thangkas that relate the lives and events surrounded the Panchen Lamas. Since the old living quarters of the Panchen Lama are no longer open to the public, tourists can only visit some small halls in front of the palace.
Main Chanting Hall (大经堂) or Tsochin Hall is the oldest and central building groups in Tashilhunpo Monastery which can trace back to 1447 and accommodate 3800 monk at the same time. The lanes are paved by sedimentary rocks from the foothills of the Himalayas, manifesting strong vibe of self-cultivating. It is an important place for holding Buddhist activities. In the center of the halls is enshrined the finely carved throne of Panchen Lama which was supported by 48 red painted columns and covered by yellow damask. In the Main Chanting Hall, there are other halls including Shakyamuni Palace, Maitreya Palace and Tara Palace from which you can feast your eyes on serene-looking statues and exquisite Thangkas. In the front of the hall is a square for chanting sutra and debating sutra. On the surrounding walls, you can find carved statues of Buddha with different poses and expressions.
Located in the northeast of Tashilhunpo Monastery, Thangka Exhibit Platform (展佛台) is built to commemorate the born, enlightenment and nirvana of Shakyamuni under the charge of the first Dalai Lama in 1468. With a height of 32 meters and a length of 42 meters, it is the tallest building in Shigatse. What’s more, Thangka Exhibit Platform is not only an important component of Tashilhunpo Monastery, but also a special symbol of Shigatse.
Living in the place with highest altitude and thinnest air, the disciples and followers show you their indomitable vitality and devout faith. The wandering circumambulation around Tashilhunpo Monastery is the best way to appreciate the religious charm. In addition to colorful sutra streamer, mottled murals and stone tablet carved with texts, you can also see lots of pilgrims. They might be the seniors with white hair and beard, hobbled old woman on her cane, middle-aged man taking his Tibet butter, young parents etc. All of them are entirely absorbed and go their own way, simple and devote.
With a long history of more than 500 years, Thangka Sunning Festival is an important ceremony taking place in Thangka Platform and lasting for three days (from 14th to 16th May in Tibetan Calendar). As the thangka of Amitabha (past Buddha), Shakyamuni (current Buddha) and Jamba (future Buddha) with bright color and exquisite craftsmanship rise slowly to high sky, dozens of Lamas begin to chant sutra. It is said that as many as 20,000 followers will come to Tashilhunpo Monastery and join this activity from different places in Tibet. They bow in worship to pray for health, peace and auspiciousness.
The whole sightseeing will cost nearly 3 hours. Stepping into Tashilhunpo Monastery and turning left, you will have 5 massive buildings in your eyes and they are Chapel of Jamba, Stupa of the fourth Panchen Lama, Stupa share by the fifth to ninth Panchen Lama, Stupa of the tenth Panchen Lama and Thangka Platform. After feasting on the great statue of Buddha and the dazzling stupas, climb to Thangka Platform and you will have a distinctive view of Shigatse. Then, you could turn to the Main Sutra Hall and appreciate the beautiful murals and the hot sutra-debating. Afterwards, get to Shakyamuni Hall and have a sight of Shakyamuni with reverence. Maitreya Buddha is your next destination where you can the oldest statues of Avalokitesvara and Manjusriin. In the end, you can visit Han Buddha Chapel and nearby chapels.
Located at the foot of Drolmari and western side of Shigatse within 20 minutes’ walk, Tashilhunpo Monastery is convenient to get to. Most tourists choose to have a tour combining Lhasa and Shigatse
By Flight: There are several flights from Chengdu or Beijing to Shigatse in every week. With one hour’s driving, you can get to Tashilhunpo Monastery directly.
By Train: Two daily trains starting from Lhasa in 8:30 and 15:20 will bring you to Shigatse within 3 hours. Tashilhunpo Monastery is just 7.4 km to Shigatse Railway Station and you can take a public bus or take a taxi.
By Coach: Enough regular coaches are also available from Lhasa to Shigatse. Take one and you can get to Shigatse with 5 hours. Tashilhunpo Monastery is close to Shigatse Eastern Bus Station and you can easily take a bus there.
If you want to get rid of hustle of public transportation and troublesome navigation, you can book a private tour package which covers sightseeing, dining and transfer from us. Our knowledgeable local tour guide and skilled driver will escort you to Tashilhunpo Monastery with speed and convenience, and take care of all the details. You just need to focus on sightseeing.
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