Heart of Tibet – 6 days

Heart of Tibet - 6 days

Heart of Tibet tour brings you to the spectacular places in the Tibet for and exploration of the cultural and architectural beauty of the respective places.

Trip Overview

Duration: 6 days

Best season: spring, autumn and summer

Starting point: Lhasa

Ending point: Lhasa

Program type: guided tour

Group size: Max-12, Min-2

Trip Highlights

  • Exploring fascinating city Lhasa with cultural heritage of Potala palace.
  • Sera and Drepung monastery.
  • Jokhang Temple.
  • Bharkhor market.
  • Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigaste.
  • Yamdrosto lake in Gyantse.

The amazing heart of Tibet trip starts from the holy city Lhasa by appreciating its prominent historical and religious sites like mystical Potala Palace, sacred Jokahng temple, sprawling Sera and Drepung monastery. You will deeply overwhelmed by visiting numbers of world heritages and supernatural temples, bustling street around the Jokhang temple is one of the most devotional street known as Bakhor, it will also extend the way to Gyantse and Shigatse in the west, experience the distinct culture of western (Tsang) Tibet, by driving along the stunning turquoise color lake Yamdrok and blooming Nyenchen Kangsar glacier under the sunny plateau climate, you will never waste single minute by discovering new experiences and wonders on the way to Gyantse and Shigatse. The mesmerizing monastery of Tashilhunpo and the beautiful Nyemo Tunba adds more awesomeness to this fabulous tour. Covering the major attractions of the Tibet, heart of Tibet is indeed a must do trip in the Tibet.

Outline itinerary:

Day 01: Lhasa Arrival
Day 02: Lhasa sightseeing
Day 03: Lhasa sightseeing
Day 04: Lhasa/Yamdrotso lake/Gyangtse/ Shigatse
Day 05: Shigatse to Lhasa
Day 06: Departure

Day 01: Lhasa Arrival
After the scenic Himalayan flight to the roof of the world! You will be picked up by tour guide at the airport hall, and then be escorted to your hotel in Lhasa city in a private vehicle. After arrival at your hotel, the rest of the day is free for you to explore the local areas and acclimatize yourself to the air, temperature and high altitude of Lhasa. Overnight stay in the hotel in Lhasa.

Day 02: Lhasa sightseeing
After breakfast in the morning, start today’s Lhasa exploration with an exciting visit to the landmark – Potala Palace which is regarded as one of the most beautiful architectural building in the world. You will climb up the palace along the zigzag stone paths with white-and-red walls to the top of the palace where you can not only appreciate the exotic Tibetan-style architecture, but also get a great view of Lhasa’s urban areas, then walk into the inner space of Potala Palace to explore the stately chapels and learn about the history of the palace. Continuing your exploration, you will then get to Jokhang Temple which is considered as the spiritual heart of Tibetan Buddhism. Each day, there are thousands of pilgrims coming from different places in Tibet to the temple to worship the Buddha. This temple is also known as the “house of Buddha” because it keeps the precious Jowo Rinpoche, the life-sized (5 foot/1.5m) image of the Shakyamuni at the age of 12. The last site for today’s exploration is the famous Barkhor Street. It is a circular and wide street encircling the Jokhang Temple. The local people like to walk on the street for several circles usually in the late afternoon as a daily tradition of pilgrimage. The street also has many shops selling a wide variety of traditional Tibetan goods, religious items and handcrafts. Overnight stay in the hotel.

Day 03: Lhasa sightseeing
After breakfast, you will firstly go to visit the beautiful Norbulingka which used to be the former summer palace of Dalai Lamas in the ancient time, and now is a public park. It is famous for its Potrang, the private palaces of former Dalai lamas with grandiose Tibetan architecture style. The beautiful gardens and the architecture of the palace will blow your mind. Next, drive several kilometers to the western outskirts of Lhasa to visit Drepung Monastery. Drepung, in Tibetan, means “prosperity”. Since its establishment, Drepung Monastery has always been one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in Tibet. In its heyday, there were more than 10,000 monks lived and studied in the monastery. Throughout its history, many important and famous Tibetan leaders used to study here, especially the Dalai Lamas. So Drepung Monastery is also respectfully known as the “Mother School of Dalai Lamas”. In the afternoon, you will be taken to another famous monastery in Lhasa – Sera Monastery. It is famous for the spectacular “Buddhism Debating”. As a daily routine, the monks gather in a courtyard, and debate on the Buddhist doctrines with supplemented gestures, which is thought to be helpful to, facilitates better comprehension of the Buddhist philosophy to attain higher levels of study. After enjoying the “Buddhism Debating”, you will be transferred back to the city. The rest time is your own free time to rest. Overnight stay in hotel.

Day 04: Lhasa/Yamdrotso lake/Gyangtse/ Shigatse 
Today after breakfast, you will leave Lhasa and drive about 8 hours to Shigatse, the second largest city in Tibet. It may be a long journey, but there are many things to do along the road. The first site you will reach is the holy Yamdrok Lake. As the largest fresh lake in the northern of the Himalaya Mountains, it spreads about 675 square meters from south to north, like an eardrop lying in the arms of snow-capped giant mountains. Viewing from a distance, you can see fertile pastures full of yaks and sheep, and some small Tibetan villages along the lakeshore. Keeping driving not so far from Yamdrok Lake, you will see the imposing Karola Glacier towering aloft on the right side of the road. Apart from its own overwhelming charm, the surrounding view is also quite gorgeous. There is a little white pagoda standing at the foot of Karola Glacier, with flying prayer flags around. When spring and summer come, the grassland turns green. The flocks of goats and yaks appreciate their feast in this beautiful land. If the weather is good, you can enjoy of unhindered views of Mt. Nojin Kangsang and the opposite mountain range of Mt. Kalurong. There is also a wooden walkway virtually right to the foot of the mountain if you have more time to spend here, which is certainly worthwhile. Continuing your trip, you will get to the historical city of Gyantse. Have a good lunch in the town, then go to visit the mysterious Palcho Monastery. The monks and tradition of three important sects of Tibetan Buddhism – Sakyapa, Zhalupa and Gelukpa, peacefully coexist in this monastery. Its Kumbum, which is 35 meters high and has 76 small chapels with hundreds images of Kriyatantras, is believed to be the largest such structure in Tibet. As a fusion of Han, Tibetan and Nepali architecture, this monastery is a three-storey flattop building complex, consisting of Temples, Stupas, Zhacangs, Fort walls, Wheel-prayer cloister and more religious sites. Cuoqin Hall of over 500 years’ history is the main building and center of this monastery for the monk assembly and other Buddhism issues. By combined the three sects, the Buddha statues here has a different style from other temples here. After the Gyantse sightseeing, keep drive about 3 hours, you will arrive at your hotel in Shigatse. Have a good rest at hotel in Shigaste.

Day 05: Shigatse to Lhasa 
Today, before driving back to Lhasa, you will make a visit to the official seat of Panchen Lama – Tashilhunpo Monastery which is also the largest and most influential Gelug Monastery in Shigatse prefecture. Here you will see a giant statue of Future Buddha, the largest one of its kind on earth ( 26.2 meters high and 11.5 meters wide ), decorated with precious pearls, turquoises, corals and ambers.

Leave Shigatse and head for Lhasa. On the halfway, you will take a visit to Nyemo Tunba which was the home of Tunmi Sangbuzha who invented the Tibetan character as well as the famous Tibetan Incense. Here in Tunba, you also have a chance to witness the process of making Tibetan Incense with water mill. At the same time, the scenery here is fabulous – ancient cypress trees, green willows, murmuring river and many more. Enjoying a superior geographic location by the side of 318 National Highway between Lhasa to Shigatse, Nyemo Tunba still keeps a natural way to make incense and this intact craftsmanship can trace back to 1300 years ago, which is listed into state-level intangible cultural heritage. Walking along streams and bridges, there are many spots for visitors to experience its procedures. Besides, in Tunba village you can also experience a profound humanity atmosphere by visiting the first Tibetan Characters Museum to suck up the local culture and trace back to Sontzen gampo period to enjoy the literal glamour. Afterward continue drive to Lhasa and upon arrival check in to hotel and take a good rest in Lhasa city.

Day 06: Departure
Today you will be transferred to the Danggor airport as per your flight schedule for the flight to onward destination.

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Sera Monastery 
Located in the southern slope of the Serawoze Mountain of the northern suburb of Lhasa City, you can take bus from the bus station nearby Jokhang Temple square to Sera Monastery directly for less than one hour. Sakya Yeshe who was one of eight disciples of Tsongkhapa, was the founder of the Sera Monastery. Before the construction, he was sent to Nanjing to pay homage to the Yongle emperor of Ming Dynasty, On behalf of Tsongkhapa. During the way back, he was bestowed on a large number of sutras, Buddhist statues, monks robes, silks, gold and silver, which were used to build Sera Monastery. Therefore, there are various relics dating back to Ming dynasty. Finished in 1434, Sera Monastery covers over 110,000 square meters with nearly 9000 monks at the peak times. The dense buildings including Assembly Hall, colleges and palaces are spreading around. Up to now, there are one Tsochin Hall, three Buddhist colleges and numerous small halls and chapels, and over 600 monks study here. As for the origin of the name, there are two legends according to the local saying. One is that it was hailing when the monastery was constructed. Since hailstone pronounces “sera” in the Tibetan language, so this temple was named “Sera Monastery”; another legend is that the monastery was surrounded by a grove of rose trees, and rose also pronounces “sera” in the Tibetan language, so Sera Monastery was called, and means “the rose monastery” in Tibetan language.

Sera Monastery Highlights

Admire the Buddhist Buildings
Although Sera Monastery is much smaller than Drepung Monastery, there are some important buildings housing statues of Buddhas, murals, scriptures and some other culture relics. Tsochen Hall, made up by square, Scripture Hall and five Buddhist chapels, is the main hall also the administrative center in Sera Monastery. It looks like a forest with over 100 wooden columns standing. In some big days, the monks will gather here to chant the scriptures. In the east part of Tsochen Hall, you can find a gilded bronze statue of Maitreya Buddha with peaceful expression. Among the three Buddhist chapels in the backside of Tsochen Hall, the middle one houses a huge statue of Maitreya Buddha with a height of 6 meters. There are many beautiful sculptures in this chapel. On the bookshelf close to the south wall, is cherished the Kangyur, which is the first Tibetan printed Buddhist sutra. As an area of 1,702 square meters, Sera Je College is Sera’s largest college with many stupas and statues of Buddha worshipped here. The inside chapel houses the statue of Hayagriva who is a respected protective deity in Tibetan Buddhism. Many local people come here to touch his foot because they believe that he is able to drive away all evil spirit and bring blessings. The chapel is rather small so you need to walk in the crowded to take a look of this deity.

Watch Buddhism Debating
Location: debating courtyard

Time: 15:00-17:00 per day, except Sundays and some special festivals

Buddhism debating is the best featured activities in Sera Monastery. It is a spectacular way of discussing about Buddhist knowledge, also a way of study with each other. Like a routine, the debating is taken place at the debating courtyard at 15:00 clock. Before debating, the monks divided into pair in equal rank, with one standing (asking questions) and one sitting (answering questions). Also there are some small groups with one standing and others sitting to answer. During the following 2 hours, you can view a fierce argument along with some typical gestures: a clap with both palms means that the standing monk are going to ask a question, or urge the sitting monk to answer the question quickly; touch Buddha beads means that wish for an inspiration from the Buddha, and so on. All those expressions have also some deep meanings to imply the Buddhist philosophy, like discard distracting thoughts and wake up your mercy and wisdom by the sharp bursts of clapping.

Celebrate Sera Bengqin Festival

The Sera Bengqin Festival, also known as the “Blessing of the Dagger of Exorcism”, is a typical religious festival in Sera Monastery, hold on December 27 of Tibetan calendar for hundreds years. It has a legend that at the end of the 15th century, the Dagger of Exorcism was brought to Tibet from India and then enshrined in the Buddhist Guardian Hall of the Sera Monastery. In the past, on that day, the Dagger would be taken to the Potala Palace for blessing offered by Dalai Lama, then sent back. After return to Sera Monastery, a general blessing was given to monks and whole communities. Nowadays, as the big festival before the New Year, it will last 24 hours and on that day, there are thousands of pilgrims take part in from nearby regions and other provinces, like Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan to worship and pray for good luck in the next year. Besides, the believers who are given blessing by touching the head with the Dagger of Exorcism wrapped around golden silk will go to offer Hada towards the giant Tangka presented in the main hall, which is quite grand and solemn.

Jokhang temple 
Jokhang Temple (or Jokhang Monastery) is the spiritual center of Tibet and the holiest destination for all Tibetan pilgrims. In the Tibetans eyes, Lhasa city was named after the Jokhang Temple after it was constructed. Survived from the Anti-Buddhist activities, it went thought several reconstructions and become a massive building of first earth & wood structure, covering an area of 2.51 hectares. The Jokhang Temple was constructed by Tibetan King Songtsan Gambo in the 7th century to house the sacred image of the Buddha-Jowo Rinpoche, which was the dowry of Chinese princess Wencheng, the second wife of Songtsan Gambo married 641.There is the legend to explain foundation that the King threw his ring into the air to show where to build the temple. The ring fell into a lake and a stupa emerged from the water. Then the lake was filled by sand and soil carried by thousands of white rams, the main transport way at that time. This construction last over three years to finish in 64, and the temple at first was called Rasa, means the land of ram. After many Buddha enshrined, the temple changed the name to Jokhang, means the house of Buddha. And the city was named Lhasa, which means the land of Buddha.

Highlights of Jokhang temple

Life-sized Statue of Shakyamuni

The Jowo Rinpoche (or Jowo Shakyamuni), a life-sized (5 foot/1.5m) statue of the Shakyamuni of age 12, is the treasure of Jokhang Temple as well as the great collection of Tibet. It is said that the Jowo Rinpoche was made in India and later was given to China as a gift. When Tubo King Songtsan Gambo married Chinese Princess Wenchen during Tang Dynasty, Jowo Rinpoche, along with extraordinary Tibet religious art treasures was brought to Lhasa as dowry in 641. There are many pilgrims coming Jokhang Temple from different places in the world to pay homage to the Jowo Rinpoche. They believe that one devoted prayer will bring their blessedness.

Various Statues of Buddha & Exquisite Murals
The interior of Jokhang Temple is an atmospheric labyrinth of chapels dedicated to various gods and bodhisattvas, illuminated by votive candles and thick with the smoke of incense. There are full of thousands of hundreds of Buddhist statues and images which were brought by the two princesses (Wencheng & Bhrikuti) as part of their dowries. While walking through those atmospheric labyrinthes of chapels for various gods and bodhisattva, you may feel like getting back to the ancient mysterious land and find all around you is religion. On the right side of the front gate of Jokhang Temple are two murals, with one depicting the procession of princess Wencheng arriving in Tibet and the other describing how the Jokhang Temple was built. Some other fine murals and Thangkas hanging on the walls are also worthy of your visiting.

Featured Building
Jokhang Temple enjoys a long history of over 1,000 years and holds a high status in Tibetan Buddhism. It is the existing most resplendent monastery built in Tubo Dynasty and the earliest civil structure in Tibet. Combining the feature of Chinese, Tibetan and Nepalese architecture, Jokhang Temple becomes a model of Tibetan Buddhist building. As you get close to Jokhang Temple, your eyes will firstly be caught by the beautiful golden roof. There are still something preserved in spite of several destructions. Under the roof, you can find the original wooden beams and rafters. In the lobby, there are Newari door frames, columns and finials from the 7th and 8th centuries.

Things to do in Jokhang temple

Have a Splendid View from the Platform and Golden Roof
Following the steps to the higher floors, you will find there is a platform in the second floor. There are several Buddhist souvenirs for sale. From this platform, you can the amazing architecture style which is another essence of Jokhang Temple. Climb to the rooftop, you will get a better sightseeing. Apart from the elegant roof itself, the rooftop offers great vantage points for looking out over square to watch the devotees. Don’t miss the nice overview of Potala Palace from the roof.

Suck up the Religious Belief 
As the spiritual center of Tibet, Jokhang Temple always attract endless of pilgrims. Jokhang Temple is more important for Tibetans. People walk clockwise around it constantly and prostrating themselves in front and get crowded. The praying outside the temple is worth seeing to suck up the local religious belief. If you want to view the pilgrims do their devotions, you can tour around the exterior of Jokhang Temple in the morning. There are two gates of the temple, one is for locals with a big queue lining up; the other is for tourists to get in.

Watch the Buddhist Activities during New Year Festival
During Tibetan New Year, which always takes place between late January and early March, the Great Prayer Festival will be hosted by Jokhang Temple. The huge columns in the Jokhang Temple Square will be decorated by colorful prayer flags and thousands of butter lamps will lighten Jokhang Temple. Most important activities include sutras-chanting and scripture-debating. The Tibetan believes that the large-scale Buddhist activities will bring them the peace, blessedness and fortune.

Potala palace
Potala Palace, regarded as landmark and the symbol of Tibet, is a great giant palace consisting of many houses, towers, chapels, etc. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Potala Palace is the highest place in the world. Because of its spectacular architecture style, it is honored as one of the most beautiful architectural building in the world. Potala Palace’s history can be traced back to about 1,300 years ago since which Potala has been through several large reconstructions. It was originally built in the 7th century when the Tubo Kingdom ruled Tibet to house Srongtsen Gampo and his two wives – Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal and Princess Wencheng of Tang Empire. After the fall of Tubo Kingdom, Potala Palace was almost ruined by constant wars until 17th century when came the most important reconstruction during Potala’s history. His Holiness – the Fifth Dalai Lama decided to rebuild Potala Palace. He received helpful hands from Qing Empire. The constructions took almost many years. At last, the Fifth Dalai Lama moved the government from Drepung Monastery to Potala, which made Potala as the political and Buddhism center of Tibet. Since the Fifth Dalai Lama, several small reconstructions had been conducted by the later Dalai Lamas. The main body of Potala Palace has remained as the same as the past.

Highlights of Potala palace

Tibetan Architecture
Potala Palace is one of the most brilliant architectural buildings standing on the precipitous hill. Having a majestic exterior of 13 layers in the total height of 117 meters, the whole palace was built by wood and stones. The walls were piled by granite with a thickness of 2-5 meters. The roof and eaves are made of woods with beautiful carvings about Buddhism. Constructed by the white and red palaces, there are ornate chapels, halls, rooms inside. The palace can be divided to two main parts: the White Palace around and the Red Palace in the center. The White Palace was the living quarters of the Dalai Lama and the office to deal with political and Buddhist affairs. And the Red Palace is the main building for 117 meters, consisting of a complicated layout of different Buddhist halls, chapels and libraries.

Splendid Artworks
Inside the majestic Palace is the treassure house of splendid art works. Besides the artistic concentrate of ancient Tibet architecture, Potala Palace is also an art treasure of Tibet. The most outstanding art is the 698 murals on the walls and along the corridors which describe some important events happened during Tibetan history, like Princess Wencheng to Tibet, and lifetime stories of famous Buddhist masters, such as the 5th Dalai Lama. Apart from murals, you can also find a large quantity of exquisite Tangkas, a typical kind of roll of uranium, painting on silk, cloth or paper and framed by color satin, which are mainly telling about the Tibet history events, religious figures and Buddhist doctrines. Besides, there are many kinds of crafts to present the Tibetan local life.

Religious Treasures
Potala Palace is one of the holiest buildings of Tibetan Buddhism. It is the palace of leader of Tibetan Buddhism – Dalai Lama. During ancient time, Potala opened a Buddhist school to teach Buddhism. More importantly, Potala Palace houses many stupas of past Dalai Lamas. And in both Red Palace and White Palace, there are lots of precious statues, especially the 2 meters high statue of Tsong Khapa (in East Chapel), a silver statue of Padmasambhava (in South Chapel), and statues of Sakyamuni, Dalai Lamas and Medicine Bduddha (in North Chapel). Integrated into different Buddhist art of Han dynasty, India and Nepal, the sculpture is another precious treasure in the palace, including the clay sculpture, wood carvings, stone inscription and multiple metal statues.

Norbulinka palace
Norbulingka Palace, on the west edge of Lhasa city is the biggest manmade garden in Tibet Autonomous Region. Nearby Potala Palace, Norbulingka, in Tibetan, refers to “Park of Treasure” and used to be the summer palace of Dalai Lamas to deal with the government issues and hold religious activities. As a barren land, Norbulingka was initially nothing but full of overgrown weeds and infested wild animals. Due to the scrub growth alongside and beautiful scenery in the summer, this place was attracted to 7th Dalai Lama, who’d like to pitch camp to spend his whole summer time with. Finally, in the year of 1755, this place was constructed by the 7th Dalai Lama to handle with political issues, met guests and organized ceremonies. Since then, the subsequent Dalai Lamas kept study here and spent their summer resort. Gradually, this place became the summer palace of Dalai Lamas. When the 8th Dalai Lama took charge, Norbulingka was in the form of palaces and gardens. With the further extension by the successive Dalai Lamas (until the 14th), Norbulingka shapes from several rooms and chapels into a variety of building complex, including numbers of palaces subject to each Dalai Lama, Buddhist halls, pavilions, villa and more plants around. As for the layout, Norbulingka is mainly made up to several palaces and each palace is consists of three sections: the forest area, the palace area and the area in front of the palace. With typical Tibetan style combined with inland traditional garden technique, all buildings are well arranged here. Besides, there are murals painted on the walls of Buddha halls and some precious relics and Buddhist books are stored. Today, being a public park and museum opened in 1959, common people can visit inside to wonder its beauty. Also there are various activities and festivals taken place for tourists to join in the Tibetan.

Highlights of Norbulinka palace

Dalai Lamas’ Palaces
As an extraordinary palace, Norbulingka provides brilliant buildings of Tibetan architecture. Potrang, in Tibetan, means “palace”. There are three outstanding potrangs – The Kelsang Potrang, Tsokyil Potrang and Takten Migyur Potrang built by three Dalai Lamas. In these potrangs, There are some precious historical relics and art works kept. You can see many elegant Thangkas, solemn Buddha statues, beautiful wall paintings and nice chinaware gifted by central Chinese governments since ancient time.

Tyokyil Potrang : It is a pavilion in the midst of a lake and known for the top scenic spot in Norbulingka, built by the 8th Dalai Lama. With two stone bridges to connect both sides, its layout is a shape of rectangle with three small islands listed by. Decorated with gold covered roof and copper tile, this palace is full of Buddhist murals around walls and different Buddha statues and the rest rooms for Dalai Lama.

Kelsang Potrang : As the first palace in Norbulingka, it is named after the 7th Dalai Lama, Kelsang Gyatso (1708–1757). It is a three-storied palace with Main Assembly Hall on the first floor, and chambers for the worship of Buddha in the second one, as for the top floor, which was added later as the living room and political meeting center. The murals on the second floor are worth seeing. With lively images of kids playing, these lifestyle paintings are rare to find in Tibetan Buddhist culture.

Takten Migyur Potrang : Built in 1954 by 14th Dalai Lama, it is called the New Palace. As the most elegant and largest palace with a fusion of a temple and villa, it is the representative to present Tibetan architecture. With the similar function of other palaces, the chapels on the second floor reserved a serial mural to describe the history of Tibet by over 300 scenes, which is quite particularly.

Shoton Festival Activities
Apart from some splendid palaces and magnificent buildings, Norbulingka also features some big Tibet event activities, such as the annual Shoton Festival. After the grand ceremony of Buddha Exhibition in Drepung Monastery, this festival still last with strong atmosphere from the first day to the seventh day of July in Tibetan Lunar Calendar. During those days, people gather in Norbulingka to have a family picnic and enjoy wonderful Tibetan shows. Many famous Tibetan Opera teams will compete in Norbulingka to perform traditional shows and dances to please audiences.

Shoton Festival takes place from 30th June in Tibetan Calendar (21st August in 2017).

Deprung Monastery

Drepung Monastery was founded in 1416 by Jamyang Chojey who was famous as the respectful disciple of Tsongkhapa, the founder of Tibetan Gelug Buddhism. Drepung, in Tibetan, stands for “prosperity”. As the name, Drepung started its “prosperity” early after the establishment. After two years, the monastery already had over 2000 monks, and reached its heyday when about 10,000 monks studied and lived here. Since then, Drepung Monastery spread its influence quickly, and became one of the most holy monasteries in Tibetan regions. Drepung Monastery has been dedicated to promote the study of Buddhism. Both Esoteric Buddhism and Exoteric Buddhism are taught here. There are three academies of Exoteric Buddhism which study different instructions of the three disciples of Tsongkhapa. There is only one academy study Esoteric Buddhism. Throughout its history, many important and famous Tibetan leaders used to study here, especially the Dalai Lamas. So Drepung Monastery is respected as the “Mother Monastery of Dalai Lamas”. Before the 5th Dalai Lama’s removal to Potala Palace, Drepung Monastery used to be the both political and Buddhist center. Since then, Drepung has been a monastery as well as a Buddhism school until today.

Highlights of Deprung Monastery

Religious Heritage Sites
Since Drepung Monastery’s founding in 15th century, many constructions were made. A great many of monasteries, pagodas, chapels have been well preserved. The most important historical buildings are: Ganden Potrang, Coqen Hall, the four Zhacangs (or Tantric colleges) and numerous Kamcuns, subjected to the Zhacang. Ganden Potrang is a sumptuous palace. It was built by the 2nd Dalai Lama Gendun Gyaco in 1530, and became his presidential palace. The later 3rd, 4th and 5th Dalai Lamas also lived here until the 5th moved to Potala Palace. Ganden Potrang consists of a yard of houses. The main building is a monastery of 3 floors. The first floor is used as holding ceremonies. The second floor is the place where Dalai Lamas works. The third floor is the personal living space for Dalai Lama. Coqen Hall is situated in the central monastery. Its best feature is the giant bronze statue of Qamba Buddha which was built according the appearance of Qamba Buddha at his age of eight. In front of the Buddha, there is a conch which was gifted by Tsongkhapa. In the 5th, 8th and 15th of every month, the monks will chant sutra for a whole day in the Coqen Hall usually. In the same day, the kitchen will be open to the tourists, from which you can learn about kitchen utensils and cooking material. Standing on the ground before Coqen Hall, you could take a panoramic view of Lhasa city. To get better view, it is also available to climb to the Thangka Exhibition Hall. Zhacang is the unite of academy in Gelug schools. It includes meeting hall and Bhudda chapels. There are four Zhacangs in Drepung Monastery studying different instructions of Gelug. Each Zhacang has its own chapels, kamcuns and dormitories. The courtyards of Zhacang are used as the stage for Buddhism Debating.

Shoton Festival
As one of the main Buddhist ceremonies, Shoton Festival is quite grand in whole Tibet and Drepung Monastery is especially known as the center site of this festival, which held on June 30th in the Tibetan calendar. There will be a dramatic unfurling of a giant Buddha tapestry with 80 meters long and 40 meters wide hang on the hillside Thangka Exhibition Platform in the morning, followed with various kinds of Tibetan opera performances and other activities. Begin with Drepung Monastery to spread throughout Tibet, Shoton Festival is one of the best ways to join in the local Tibetans and learn their traditional culture and religion. On this day, many Buddhists and tourists will come to celebrate it.

Historical & Cultural Relics

There are a large number of historical and cultural relics kept in Drepung Monastery. Feature 1 – Chinaware: lots of ornate chinaware from early Song, Ming and Qing Dynasty. Most of them are cups, bowls, and bottles. Feature 2 – Thangka: there are several hundreds of Thangkas mostly made during Ming and Qing Dynasty. The most famous ones are four giant hanging Thangkas themed by the “scholar’s four jewels” (writing brush, ink stick, ink slab and paper). Feature 3 – Wenshu Bronzed Mirror: this mirror was carved beautifully with appearance of Wenshu Buddha. The 5th Dalai Lama received as gift from Shunzhi Emperor of Qing. Feature 4 – Buddha Statues: there are thousands of statues of Buddha, Bodhisattva, etc.

Shoton Festival takes place from 30th June in Tibetan Calendar (21st August in 2017).

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