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Tashilhunpo Monastery

Tashilhunpo Monastery

Tashilhunpo Monastery - Brief Introduction

Tashilhunpo Monastery, located at the foot of the Drolmari (Tara's Mountain), is the biggest monastery in the Shigatse area of Tibet and the largest Tibetan Gelugpa Buddhism monastery in back Tibet area. In Tibetan, Tashilhunpo means "all fortune and happiness gathered here" or "heap of glory". It was built in 1447 in Ming Dynasty by the disciple of Tsongkhapa and was later expanded by the fourth Panchen Lama. Tashilhunpo Monastery covers an area of nearly 300,000 square meters. Tashilhunpo Monastery, together with the Gantan Monastery, the Sera Monastery and the Drepung Monastery are called the four monasteries of the Gelugpa sect in Tibetan Buddhism. Tashilhunpo is the seat of the Panchen Lama since the Fourth Panchen Lama took charge in the monastery, and there are now nearly 800 lamas. In March 4th 1961, the Tashilhunpo Monastery was listed as the key national cultural relic protection unit by the State Council.

Tashilhunpo Monastery - History

In 1447 of Ming Dynasty, the Tashilhunpo Monastery was built under the supervision of the first Dalai Lama Genden Zhuba-the youngest disciple of Tsongkhapa (Tsongkhapa is the founder of Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism). The construction was financed by donations from local nobles.

Later in 1660 of Qing Dynasty, the fourth Panchen Lobsan Qoigyi was titled by the Qing government as the abbot. He expanded the Tashilhunpo Monastery into a larger scale. Since then, the Tashilhunpo Monastery has become the residence of the successive Panchen Lamas who have managed to expand the monastery gradually. At the heyday of the monastery, there were more than 4,000 monks and 4 tantric colleges with their own abbot.

Tashilhunpo Monastery - Attractions

The main structures found in the Tashilhunpo Monastery are the Kelsang Temple, the Great Maitreya Chapel and Stupas. There are also some other attractions in the monastery.

Kalsang Temple

The Kelsang Temple is the earliest building in the monastery. In front of the Kelsang Temple lies a great courtyard for sermon. It is the place for all the Buddhists and monks to sermon and debate the Buddhism scriptures. The Main Chanting Hall in the Kelsang Temple can hold more than 2,000 people to chant sutras. On the back of the hall lies a 5 meters high statue of Sakyamuni. It is said that part of Sakyamuni's relics was placed in it. There are also many small halls in the Kelsang Temple. Two chapels sit on both sides of the main chanting hall inside the Coqen Hall. The left one is devoted to Tara, the goddess who is believed to be the avatar of Avalokitesvara. A White Tara is in the middle and two Green Taras on each side. The right chapel is dedicated in the middle of the chapel. The statue of Avalokitesvara and Bodhisattva Manjusri created by the first Dalai Lama stands near the statue of the Maitreya Buddha.

Great Maitreya Chapel

The Great Maitreya Chapel lies on the west side of the Tashilhunpo Monastery with a height of 30 meters. Entering it, you can see the biggest statue of a sitting Maitreya Buddha which was cast by the 9th Panchen Lama in 1914. This statue is 26.2 meters high and is made of 6,700 liang (134 g) gold, 231,400 jin (115,700 kg) brass and is decorated with about 1,400 pearls, ambers, diamonds and other precious stones. The statue is the biggest bronze sitting statue in the world which was handcrafted by 900 craftsmen in 9 years. The chapel has been divided into five floors. You can visit the upper floors of the chapel using a wooden staircase to see the statue more clearly and appreciate the superb skill of the Tibetans.


The Stupa-tomb of the 10th Panchen Lama lies east of the chapel. Covered by 614 kg (1,354 pounds) gold, 868 precious stones and 246,794 jewels, the Stupa-tomb built in 1993 is the most splendid and costly mausoleum in China since the 1950s. The Panchen Lama's Palace which stands nearby the Stupa-tomb is a grand white palace mainly built during the reign of the Six Panchen Lama (1738-1780). It is still closed to tourists and local visitors alike. To the east of the Panchen Lama's Palace lies the Stupa-tomb of the Fourth Panchen Lama who is one of the most famous Lamas in Tibetan history. He is also the teacher of the Fifth Dalai Lama. His gorgeous stupa-tomb decorated with gold and silver was built in 1662. The Stupa-tomb of the Fourth Panchen Lama is the first stupa-tomb in Tashilhunpo.

Other Attractions

There are also four Zhacangs in the monastery. Zhacang is a college for learning Buddhism scriptures. In these Zhacangs, a morning chanting ceremony with musical instruments usually takes place between the few remaining monks in the monastery. Pilgrims may circumambulate the hall.

In addition to these buildings and the statues inside them, the Tshilhunpo Monastery is also abundant in the colorful wall paintings. Thanks to the variety of shapes, resplendent colors and exquisite painting, the murals are considered to be another masterpiece of Buddhist art. Rare sutras, thangka, china and glass services of the Ming and Qing Dynasties are also invaluable assets in the Tashilunpo Monastery. These are good relics for researching the history and society of Tibet.