Ganden Monastery

Prophesied by the historic Buddha approximately about 2,000 years before his birth, Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) was a child prodigy who went on to establish and inspire Tibet's most powerful monastic sect. Dissatisfied by the ill discipline - intellectual, religious and monastic - of contemporary orders, he reined his disciples and followers into a strict new order. The Gelug sect re-established the austerity of monastic life and emphasized the primacy of philosophical study within it. Ganden Monastery was founded near Lhasa  in Tibet by Tsongkhapa in 1409 as the first and main Gelug monastery.

The enthusiastic zest with which the great Tsongkhapa viewed his endeavor can be sensed in his naming of this monastery. "Ganden" is the Tibetan name for the paradise of the Buddha of the Future. According to scriptures, the arrival of this Buddha will herald the end of the world's sufferings. This name therefore suggests the salutary wish that Ganden monastery would become a route to the world's salvation.

Tsongkhapa, as the first abbot of Ganden Monastery, was the appointed head of the Gelug sect. To this day, the abbot or Tripa of Ganden Monastery, rather than the Dalai Lama, leads this predominant sect. An interesting feature of this succession is that unlike the succession of Dalai Lama, which operates according to the principle of reincarnation, the position of Ganden Tripa is elective. As a result, the Ganden Tripa has traditionally been a strong candidate for the position of Regent within the Tibetan government at such times when the Dalai Lama was in his minority, absent or, as on occasion, deceased.

View from Ganden Lingkor

The three main sights of Ganden Monastery per se are the Serdung, which contains the golden tomb of Tsongkhapa, the Tsokchen Assembly Hall and the Ngam Cho Khang Chapel where Tsongkhapa traditionally taught his students.

The Ganden Lingkhor

A visit to Ganden Monastery is incomplete without walking its hour long pilgrimage route. The views over the Lhasa River Valley from this 4,500 meter high (~14,500 feet) vantage point are inspiring, their beauty paying rich tribute to Tsongkhapa's prudence in locating his monastery here. This walk will also introduce many aspects of a Tibetan pilgrimage route. Our path is signposted by a rich array of colourful prayer flags fluttering in the breeze. Either side, rock faces are rubbed with yak butter offerings and small shrines in rock fissures are filled with tsha-tshas , small religious offering tablets made of clay deposited by pilgrims. Some pilgrims prostrate at every step, others before holy emblems or as tradition demands; for example, at the sky burial site it is customary to roll over on the ground to rid oneself of sin.

Ganden Monastery is located on Wangbur Mountain, on the southern bank of Lhasa River in Tagtse County, 47 kilometers (29 miles) from Lhasa City. It stands at an altitude of 3,800 meters (12,467 feet) above sea level! Ganden Monastery is one of the earliest and largest Buddhist monasteries in Tibet, and stands atop of the six famous temples of Gelugpa - a branch of Tibetan Buddhism. Its significance as a religious, artistic, political and cultural relic led to it being preserved by the National Key Cultural Relic Preservation scheme in 1961, and is now known as being one of the 'Three Great Temples', together with the Sera Monastery and the Drepung Monastery . Every year, one of the grandest of Buddhist activities - Buddha Painting Unfolding Festival - is conducted in the monastery, attracting thousands of visitors and disciples.

In the early 15th century, Tsong Khapa called for the Reformation of Religion, advocating the rooting out the previous disadvantages in religious orders and initiated the Gelugpa. This sect also became known as the Yellow Hat sect, as its disciples were always wearing yellow hats. This order went on to become the biggest sect in Tibetan Buddhism, leading to Tsong Khapa establish the Ganden Monastery. Since dharma is essential to the teachings of the sect, the whole layout of the monastery is built on its principles.

The temple is comprised of over 50 structures. The main halls in the temple are the Main Assembly Hall (or Coqen Hall), Zhacangs, Khangtsens, and Myicuns.

Coqen Hall is positioned in the northern part of the whole complex and faces south. It serves as the main assembly hall. It has three levels, and is 43.8 meters (143.7 feet) wide and 44.7 meters (146.7 feet) long. The Sutra Hall runs through the middle of the first floor, with the three Buddha Halls branching from it. The Sutra Hall is so large that it can hold over 3,000 lamas. Inside the Buddha Halls are statues of the Maitreya Buddha and the master Tsong Khapa, the initiator of Gelugpa. To the west of Coqen Hall is the other main hall consisting of the Buddhist Guardian Hall, Mandala Hall, and other complexes. It was built during the early fifteenth century, from 1409 - 1416. Built into its back wall is a huge stone which is said to have flown from India!

Tri Thok Khang is one of the earliest Buddha Halls in the Ganden Monastery, and once served as Tsong Khapa and other tripas' bedchamber. Originally built in 1409, and added onto in 1720, it was once adorned with luxurious gilded bronze bricks. In the hall are enshrined statues of the Sitatapatra and Manjushri Bodhisattva. Its windows are ornately carved in the style of the Central Plains. Due to the fact that is houses clothing of Tsong Khapa and other tripas, it is also known as the 'Clothing-Preserving Hall'.

Tibet China - Ganden Monastery in LhasaSerdhung is the Holy Stupa Hall that was used by Tsong Khapa and other tripas'. In 1419, Tsong Khapa passed away in Tri Thok Khang and in the following year his disciples established the hall for him, as well as a silver pagoda inside with more than 900 taels of silver to surround the master's body. Afterwards, the thirteenth Dalai Lama covered it with pure gold. From then on, each time a tripa died, a silver pagoda would be built in their honor. In the time leading up to the liberation of Tibet, 95 pagodas were built.

The monastery possesses two Zhacang (or Tantric colleges) - Xaze and Jamze. Both of these cover an area of nearly 1,000 square meters (1196 square yards) and are capable of holding 1,500 worshipping lamas.

There are also 23 Khangtsens and 20 Myicuns, which serve as the monks' living areas. Nine Debating Courtyards are used to as places to debate the sutras every day, as well as perform Summons Ceremonies throughout the four seasons.

Besides the 95 Holy Stupas, this monastery also houses rare and well preserved cultural relics, such as the armor of Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911). This armour is studded with jewels and engraved in four kinds of characters. There are also exquisite tapestries from Jiangsu Province, the sutra written in gold known as the National Super-Class Cultural Relic, and a set of thangka painted with sixteen arhats and the four Heavenly Kings. All of these are amazing works of art.

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By Bus
Bus Route: There are shuttle buses at the square of Jokhang Temple. The bus begins to run at 07:00 in the morning and return at 14:00 in the afternoon. The round-trip ticket is CNY 20.

CNY 45.

9:00am - 4:00pm.

Need to spend just 2 hours to visit, but as it is far away from the city, so it altogether needs 1 day.