Home > Index > Latest News
From: CRI 2009-09-20 09:15:00
Text size
Tashilhunpo, a Monastery Full of Legends

The Tashilhunpo Monastery is the traditional seat of successive Panchen Lamas, the second highest ranking lamas in Tibetan Buddhism. Founded in 1477, the monastery is located in Shigatse, a city 340 kilometers southwest of Lhasa. Now as a scenic spot in the city, the monastery has attracted visitors not only because of its exquisitely designed constructions but also because of the many legends about them.

This is one of the most famous monasteries in Tibet named Tashilhunpo. In Tibetan language, Tashi means auspicious and Lhunpo refers to magnificence.

That was Laba, a young monk in his 20s from the Tashilhunpo Monastery. Just like other lamas here, he came to the monastery around the age of 10. At first, he concentrated on learning Tibetan language. When he could fully master the language, he began to study sutras, Chinese and English. The longer he studied Buddhism, the more devoutly religious he became. The legends fascinate this young monk and have helped him become the monastery's volunteer tour guide, telling the many stories to visitors from all over the world.

Tashilhunpo Monastery is located on a hill in Shigatse, the second largest city in Tibet. Found in 1477 by the first Panchen Lama, the monastery then has become the successive seat for the following Panchen Lamas. In Tibetan Buddhism, the Panchen Lama is the second highest ranked title, next to the Dalai Lama. Covering an area of nearly 300 thousand square meters, the monastery currently has more than 3,000 rooms and 900 monks. Now the most famous spots are the temples which contain the bodies of the Panchen Lamas.

The first temple Laba takes us to is Jamba Chyenmu. When entering the main gate of the monastery, you can find the temple by walking up a zigzag path paved with cobblestones. Along the road, there are some white-stone stupas. Laba expains.

There are two types of stupas in the monastery. One is the Buddha Stupa. It is built in the outdoor area and contains Buddha statues and sutras inside. The other one is funerary stupas. These stupas are set in the temples and contain the bodies of lamas. In our tradition, only some masters and Panchen Lamas can enjoy this treatment and the rest of the lamas are cremated when they pass away.

Following Laba, we enter the Jamba Chyenmu Temple. As the highest temple in the monastery, Jamba Chyenmu was erected in 1914 by the Ninth Panchen Lama to house a gigantic statue of the Maitreya. In the Buddhist literature, Maitreya is a future Buddha. This statue in Tashilhunpo is the largest Bronze Maitreya in the world, with a height of 26 meters. A small boy can easily walk through his nostrils. Meanwhile, the design of the statue can only be described as exquisite.

From 1914 to 1918, a total of 110 craftsmen made this statue using 230 tons of brass and 560 kilograms of gold. The decoration between his eyebrows is made of 300 pearls and 32 diamonds. His silk cowl is also the largest of its kind in the world. It would cost 80 thousand to 1 million yuan to make a new one.

The statue sits on a splendid lotus throne, with its hands in the symbolic teaching pose. The throne is filled with processed grains while the body of the statue is filled with smaller Buddha figures, sutras and jewels. Here, Laba tells the first tales about the monastery.

In 1937, the Ninth Panchen Lama passed away in Qinghai Province. On that evening, this merciful Maitreya shed tears. All of the lamas who have been here at that time could attest to this. As the statue is too high, we can't see the streak of the tear. But it is really there, just on the face of the Buddha.

On the east side of Jamba Chyenmu, it is the funerary stupa temple for the 10th Panchen Lama. It is said that, just a few days before his death in 1989, he returned to Tashilhunpo Monastery after staying in Beijing for a long time. He saw a clearing in the monastery and said it was a pity there were no constructions there. A couple of days later, the 10th Panchen Lama passed away, and his funerary stupa temple was built on this clearing.

The gold-gliding stupa is divided into three parts. The top is a niche for the life-sized silver figure of the 10th Panchen Lama. Behind the niche is the body of the Panchen, preserved inside the stupa. The middle part of stupa collects works the 10th Panchen wrote, and the bottom stores food, just as the Buddha stupa. Laba says the Panchen had a premonition about his death.

In the January of 1989, the 10th Panchen returned to Tibet. Before he left Beijing, he said farewell to the officials and his friends there. When he arrived in Tibet, the local government held a welcoming ceremony for him. The Panchen sent his pictures to the local officers in the ceremony and told them to look at the pictures when they missed him. After the ceremony, he also burned incense to pray for world peace. Then he said this is his last time to do so. All of these signs show that the Panchen knew he would pass away soon.

Then, Laba lead us to the main chanting hall, which allows 2,000 lamas to chant scriptures together. The hall contains the throne of the Panchen Lama and two connected chapels. The left-one is devoted to an elaborately ensconced Sakyamuni statue. The figure possesses the sarira of Sakyamuni, as well as the skull or hair of some Buddhist masters. Here Laba tells the last tale of the monastery tour.

This is a magical statue. During the Cultural Revolution in 1960s, the statue was damaged as someone pierced two holes in his leg. But the wounds gradually recovered, and you can still see the scares on the figure.

This magical Sakyamuni has attracted many disciples to the monastery. Besides Buddhist believers, the monastery also receives tourists from both home and abroad.

The Tashilhunpo Monastery now attracts 4,000 to 6,000 tourists per month. By the end of 2009, this number is expected to reach 650,000. People come to this place, fascinated by the splendid buildings and statues and to share the legends and stories about them. The monastery stands imposingly on a hill, opening its arms to welcome these visitors while waiting patiently for them to discover more.


[editor : ]
Related Stories
· Dzogang Monastery under renovation
· Champa Ling Monastery: largest monastery of Gelug Sect in Kham
· Jokhang Temple being renovated
· Lhasa Jokhang Monastery at dark
· Monasteries in Tibet
· Art Treasures of Tar Monastery
  Most Popular
  • Asia's holiest mountain to see highest charity race ...
  • Tibetan Buddhism among Mosuo people
  • Railway to Tibet stands safety, environment tests
  • Nearly 20,000 Tibetan antelopes return to Hoh Xil
  • Former Tibetan serfs become millionaires
  • New Beijing-Tibet expressway project approved
  • Tibet builds national parks to woo international sig...
  • Tibet's import-export value in 2010 hits decade high
  •   CAPDTC News
  • CAPDTC hosts New Year reception
  • 11th Panchen Erdeni Qoigyi Gyibo donates and prays f...
  • Top Chinese political advisor meets attendees at CPA...
  • Top political advisor stresses protection of Tibetan...
  • Overseas Chinese urged to introduce Tibet in foreign...
  • CAPDTC: Newly-elected directors vow to protect Tibet...
  • Representatives at 2nd Conference of CAPDTC
  • New leadership elected in CAPDTC Executive Council
  •   Latest News
  • Shigatse Airport officially opened on July 8
  • One night in Lhasa
  • Soft loan available for Lhasa women to start business
  • Dampa beauties
  • Tourist arrivals to Tibet rise
  • Tibet through the lens - mountains and rivers
  • New school buses hitting the road in Tibet
  • Renovated Tibetan village attracts tourists
  •   Lesson Six: Family
      Hello, Everyone! Welcome to Learning Tibetan. In this lesson, we will learn some new words and sentences about family.
    About Us
    Contact Us
    Site Map
    Legal Warning
    Copyright © China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture ( CAPDTC )