Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse: The Seat of Panchen Lama
Tashilhunpo Monastery is situated in Shigatse, the second largest city in Tibet. In 1447, the first Dalai Lama built it and it has been one of the six great Gelugpa monasteries. If you go to Shigatse, you cannot miss the marvelous monastery where you will see a lot of precious religious statues and stupas.
History of Tashilhunpo Monastery
Tashilhunpo Monastery was founded in 1447 by Gedun Drub, a disciple of Tsongkhapa. Gedun Drub later became the first Dalai Lama. The monastery was expanded by the fourth Panchen Lama in 1601. During his time, he spread Buddhist scriptures and raised funds for the construction of the monastery. In addition to rebuilding old halls, he started to build over 10 halls. When he was alive, there were 5000 monks and the monastery reached its peak. From the fourth Panchen Lama, Tashilhunpo Monastery has become the seat of successive Panchen Lama. Each successive Panchen Lama has done some restoration and expansion. For example, they built Dratsang, Chapel of Jampa, monks’ residence, etc. Thus, the monastery achieves the large scale it is today.
Main Buildings of Tashilhunpo Monastery
The total area of Tashilhunpo Monastery is around 150 thousand square meters. Around the monastery are palace walls and they are built along the mountains. The main buildings of the monastery are the Kelsang Temple, Assembly Hall, Chapel of Jampa, Tomb of the fourth and tenth Panchen Lama, Tomb of the fifth to the ninth Panchen Lamas (Tashi Langyar) and Buddha Display Wall.
Kelsang Temple and The Assembly Hall
In the center of the monastery is a courtyard. Monks hold ceremonies and festival celebrations here. They gather there before going to the Assembly Hall. There is a prayer pole in the center of the yard and there are Buddha paintings on the surrounding walls. The Assembly Hall is one of the ancient buildings in the monastery. It was founded in the 15th century. In the center of the hall is the throne of the Panchen Lamas. This is an important place for Panchen Lama teaching Buddhist scriptures to all monks in the monastery. The Assembly Hall can hold over 2000 people reciting mantras together. Surrounding the hall, there are thangkas depicting various images of Panchen Lama. On the left side, there is a statue of Sakyamuni, and on the right side lies the statue of Drolma (Tara).
Chapel of Jampa (Jamkhang Chenmo)
The Chapel of Jampa is the most impressive sight of Tashilhunpo Monastery. The entire building place the world’s largest gilded statue of Jampa (Maitreya), the Future Buddha. The statue is 26.2 meters high and built in 1914 under the ninth Panchen Lama. It took four years for completion the giant artwork. The Maitreya Buddha sits on a lotus and make a gesture of teaching. Each of his fingers is more than 1 meter long. The statue was decorated by precious jewels, such as pearl, coral, diamond. Therefore, it looks very splendid.
Tomb of the Fourth Panchen Lama (Kundun Lhakhang)
The tomb of the fourth Panchen Lama is very fantastic due to the great contribution he made to the monastery. The fourth Panchen Lama has lived 94 years. After his death, monks built this tomb to commemorate him. The stupa is 11 miter high with gold, silver and copper. In addition, there are numerous jewels on the tomb. So, it is very colorful and gorgeous.
The admission fee for Tashilhunpo Monastery is RMB 80 (May 1-Oct. 31) and RMB 55 (Nov.1-April 30). The opening hours are from 9:00 to 17:00 (except the lunch time from 12:00-14:00). There are some places in the monastery forbidding taking photos. So, please look the signs and ask the monks if you want to take pictures.