The monastery is divided into two by the Zhong Qu River, while the Northern Monastery sits along the mountains, the Southern Monastery lies in the valley. The Northern Monastery was founded in 1073 by Kun Gongjor Gyibo, founder of the Sakya Sect. The Northern Monastery was grand I scale and had many constructions. Unfortunately, only a two-storey hall built in the Yuan Dynasty can still be found today as the rest of the buildings were long destroyed and left in decay. The Southern Monastery was built in 1288 by Dragon Chogyal Pagba, fifth Sagba Throne Holder. Pagba was an important political activist, grant lama and scholar in the Yuan Dynasty. While he was young, Pagba followed his uncle Sapan Gunggar Gyaincain (who was better known as Sakya Pandit) to journey to Liangzhou (today's Wuwei in Northwest China's Gansu Province). There they talked with Godan, a grandson of Genghis Khan. They were able to facilitate Tibet's submission of authority to the Yuan Dynasty. For many years, Pagba followed Kublai Khan who became the great Khan in 1260 and honored Pagba as the Imperial Tutor. Kulai Khan granted Pagba a jade seal and the authority over the Buddhist affairs in the empire as well as the administration over Tibetan Regions. In 1269, Kublai Khan decreed to unify the Mongolian language into the "Pagba language "which Pagba had created. Pagba became the spiritual guide of Kublai Khan and took charge of the local affairs in Tibet, the Sakya Monastery; he gathered 130000 families in Tibet. Many murals in the monastery recorded the grand occasion in detail. Today, when people talk about the Sakya Monastery, they usually refer to the well-preserved Southern Monastery.
Sakya Monastery is often referred to as the second Dunhuang as it boats of many classical books whose exact number no one can tell. At the rear and both flanks of the sutra hall, giant wooden shelves reach up to the ceiling. Most of the classics date back to the Yuan and Ming dynasties. The hand-written classic was carefully written with golden, silver and crimson powder. They are bound in scrolls, folders or between boards. The largest scripture in the whole world is treasured here: The "Burden Gyaimalung" is 1.8 meter long, 1.03 meters wide and 0.67 meters thick, weighing a good 500 kilograms. Besides religious content, the classics describe the religion, history, medicine, philosophy, calendric system, geology, opera, poetry, folklore and grammar concerning Tibet. Also in the monastery are imperial edicts, seals, crowns and dresses that the Yuan Government granted the Sakya Monastery officials. There are also Buddhist statues, religious instruments, ceramics, over 2000 scripture printing boards and the relics by many Princes of Dharma. The murals and tang as at Sakya Monastery is great art works with charm. The murals cover a total area of 10000 square meters. Among them, there are over 130 best ones in the Mandela style. The monastery also treasures some 40 tangkas painted over 600 years ago about the Five Founders of the Sakya Sect.
The Sakya Monastery holds the world's largest treasure of Buddhist scriptures written on patter leaves. There are 3636 pieces in 20 volumes of such scriptures written in Tibetan, Mongolian and Sanskrit. The pattra leaves are pure white, while the handwriting is neat and pleasant. Some scriptures even have paintings of Sakyamuni. They are very valuable in both academic and historic senses. With iron pens, ancient scholars carefully wrote scriptures on patter leaves about 5 centimeters broad, some 20-60 centimeters long. As the Sakya Monastery is located in a cold and high place, the dry climate protects the treasures from rotting. Thus the treasures can be preserved until today.
Sakya Monastery is a milestone of the reflourishing Tibetan culture. It is an outstanding example of the Tibetan architecture history and a centre of the 13th century cultural exchange between Han and Tibetan people.
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