Tashilhunpo Monastery

Tashihunpo Monastery
As an important cultural relic protection site, the Tashilhunpo Monastery is located on the southern slope of the Nyimari Mountain northwest of the city of Xigaze. It is the largest Monastery of the Gelug Sect in western Tibet, and the main stage where generations of the Panchen Lama carried out religious and political activities. It is one of the four main monasteries in Tibet with the other three in Lhasa.

Tashilhunpo is built along the mountains and consists of the Coqen Hall, the Qamba Buddha Hall, the Han Buddha Hall, the memorial halls and holy stops from the 5th to the 10th Panchen Lamas, the sunning Buddha platform and an old meeting hall. Taking up 300000 square meters, the whole construction is tightly laid out like a mountainous city. The monastery not only enshrines the world's largest gilded Qamba Buddha statue, there are also many precious cultural relics such as the Buddha murals precious cultural relics such as the Buddha murals recording people's lives.

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In the 10th month of the Tibetan calendar in 1447, Gentian Zhuba, the most famous disciple of Master Zongkapa and the 1th Dalai Lam Auspicious Wheel Bdemchog-rdorje a, built the Tashilhungpo Monastery and gave it the present name. After the sutra hall and other central building, many other constructions followed in later years. By the time when Lob sang Qoigyi Gyaincain became the 16th abbot of the Tashihungpo Monastery during the Ming Dynasty, a major around of expansion was carrying out. Besides two golden-tiled halls, the Ngaba Zhacang College and many halls were added. At that time, the monastery had over 3000 building and 51 subordinate monasteries, providing home for some 5000 lamas. This laid the foundation for today's Tashihungpo Monastery.

Tashihunpo Monastery
In 1645 of the Qing Dynasty, Mongolian tribe leader Gushi Khan presented Lobsang Qoiyi Gyaincain the title of "Panchen Bokdo." Traditionally, Mongolian people honour those people of both wisdom and courage with the title of "Bokdo." Lobsang Qoigiyi Gyaincain passed away in 1662 at the beginning of the reign of Emperor Kanxi. His disciple the 5th Dalai Lama Lobsang Gysico ordered the search of Lobsang Qoigyi Gyaincain's soul boy, which marked the establishment of the Panchen reincarnation system. Lobsang Qoigyi Gyaincain was commemorated as the 4th Panchen Lama, with became the supreme abbot of the Tashilhunpo Monastery, where generation of Panchen Lamas resided. In 1713, Emperor Kangxi dispatched envoys into Tibet and conferred the title of"Panchen Erdeni" together with a golden book and golden seal to the 5th Panchen Lama. This symbolized the official recognition of this Living Buddha reincarnation system's religious status. In the Tibetan language,"Panchen" refers to the" great scholar who knows about all five categories of Buddhist study." This later became the shortened title of" Panchen Erdeni." Originated from the Manchurian language, "Erdeni" means" Treasure." Since then, it has become a fixed rule that each new Panchen Lama should be confirmed and granted the title by the Central Government of China. In 1728 of Emperor Yongzheng's reign, the Qing Government designated the administration regions of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, which enabled the Panchen Lama and the Panchen Lama to become a local political and religious leader together with the Dalai Lama, each of them their individual areas.
 
Walking into the grand gate, one will soon find a crossroad. To its right is the largest building of the monastery-the sutra hall, which is also called Coqen Hall. It has the same function with the Coqen Halls of has 48 columns and takes up the Panchen Lama. Behind the hall are three smaller halls which enshrine Sakyamuni, Ma?tre a and Tara. To the east of the sutra hall is a 500-square-meter courtyard encircled by corridor. This is where the Panchen Lama lectured the lamas and where the lamas argue with each other to learn more about Buddhism. At the western roof hangs a board inscribed with" Hu guo li min" (Protecting the nation and benefiting the people) written by Chinese President Jiang Zemin. On the walls below this roof are colorful Buddha statues.

Qamaba is actually Maitreya, so the Qamba Hall is also called Ma-tre a Hall. The 30-meter tall hall enshrines a gilded bronze sculpture of Ma?tre a whose construction was ordered by the 9th Panchen Lama Qoiyi Nyima in 1914. The lotus flower seat is 3.8 meters tall; the sitting statue is 22.4 meters tall. The total height of the sculpture is 26.7 meters long, his ears are 2.8 meters long; the breath of his shoulders is 11.5 meters. His hands are 3.2 meters long; the middle finger alone is 1 meter in diameter. His feet are 4.2 meters long. One of his nostrils could actually hold a person. This is the world's largest sitting Buddha statue. The statue took over 115000 kilograms of red copper, 6700 teals of gold, 32 diamonds, 300 peals, 1400 pieces of coral, amber and some precious stones. Each time when people made Masaya for the Buddha, it would consume 3100 meters of silk and 13 kilograms of silk thread. Since 1914, people have changed kasaya three times for the Buddha. Inside the 30-meter tall hall, there are five storeys of halls surrounding the giant Buddha. From the crown to the face, chest, waist and the lotus seat, the halls enable people to maintain the Buddha conveniently and admire the statue more closely.

The Han Buddha Hall is located to the direct south of the 10th Panchen Lama's memorial hall. It was built during the time of the 7th Panchen Lama Tanphai Nyima (1781-1853). The hall enshrines the books and seals with which Qing Dynasty emperors granted royal titles to the generations of Panchen Lamas. There are also a "Tripitaka" written in Chinese language, numerous Buddha statues and other treasures granted by Qing emperors.

The memorial hall hosting stapes from the 5th till the 9th Panchen Lamas lies to the east of the 10th Panchen Lama's memorial hall. The construction was completed and enshrined in January 1989. Covering 1933 square meter, the hall is 3317 meters tall. For this grand project, the Central Government of China allocated 7.8 million yuan (US$942000) with 108.85 kilograms of gold, 1000 kilograms of silver, 665 kilograms of mercury, 5638 kilograms of red copper, 1099 cubic meters of wood, 11.8 tons of steel, 1100 tons of cement and 71700 blocks of rock.

The 10th Panchen Lama's memorial hall is built on the ruins of the memorial hall of the 6th Panchen Lama. To its east is the memorial hall hosting stapes from the 5th till the 9th Panchen Lamas, to its west is the Qamba Hall, to its front is the Han Buddha Hall. On January 28, 1989, the 10th Panchen Erdeni died of a sudden heart-attack in his residence in the Tashilhungpo Monastery. Three days after the 10th Panchen Lama passed away, the Central Government decreed that gold sputa would be built for the remains of the late master at the master and the pilgrims. The memorial hall and the sputa were completed and enshrined in August 1993. The memorial hall is 33.17 meters tall, covering an area of 1933 square meters. The hall and the sputa used 614 kilograms of gold, 275 kilograms of silver, over 10000 pieces of precious stones, which amounted to over 64 million yuan (US$7.73 million). On the walls of the corridor in the memorial hall are a series of paintings about the late master. Based on traditional style, the paintings also incorporate fresh art ideas.

The sunning Buddha platform is piled with over 5000 cubic meter of rocks and measures 32 meters tall, 42.5 meters long at the base and 3.5 meter thick with the wall. Every year, from the 14th to the 16th days on the 5th month of the Tibetan calendar, the Tashilhunpa Monastery will display gigantic silk tangka painting of Amitabha (Buddha of the Past), Sakyamuni (Buddha of the present, founder of Buddhism) and Maitreya (Buddha of the Future, also known as the Qamba Buddha in Tibet). Each of the tangka paintings cover over 1000 square meters, with the largest ones nearly 1200 square meters in size.

The Tashilhunpo Monastery holds the annual Shimon Chento Festival in the 8th month of the Tibetan calendar. In the 10th Panchen Lama's time, the grand religious dance festival was fixed at the eastern side of the monastery. The main part of the Shimon Chento Festival is the Dance of Buddha's Warrior Attendant. In addition to Tibetan folk dances, there are also the "Gar" Palace Dance, the Six Longevity Dance and dances imitating lion, wilds yak and peacock.

Deqen Get sang Phodrang was built in the 1950s. Traditionally known as the "New Palace," the Deqen Getsang Phodrang is located at about 1000 meters to the south of the Tashilhunpo Monastery. The 10th Panchen Lama lived here and also passed away at this palace. Taking up 0.7 hectare, the architecture is formed with an exterior and an interior courtyard. Crossing through the horticultural garden in the exterior courtyard, one will reach the quiet interior where stands a two-storey building combining traditional and new Tibetan architecture styles. The hall of the building is quite spacious and majestic. The building is composed of office, meeting room, sutra chamber, bed chamber and ware house, etc.