Tashilhungpo Monastery Travel Guide
Located on the southern slope of the Nyimari Mountain northwest of Shigatse city, Tashilhungpo Monastery is one of the six major monasteries of the Gelug Sect as well as the largest one in western Tibet.
Founded in 1447, it was the home of the Panchen Lamas, the reincarnations of the Eternal Light Buddha. According to historical documents, the monastery was built under the supervision of the first Dalai Lama Genden Zhuba, a disciple of Zongkapa, the founder of the Yellow Sect. It was later expanded by the 4th to 6th Panchen Lama into the current size. Listed as a key relic under state protection by the State Council on March 4, 1961, the monastery occupies 150,000 square meters.
The Tashilhungpo Monastery boasts four Lhadrang palace residences for the Panchen Erdeni. In 1660 when the 4th Panchen Lobsang Qoigyi Gyaincain succeeded as the 16th abbot of the monastery, he had the monastery expanded. In 1645, Gushri Khan granted Lobsang Qoigyi Gyaincain the title of Panchen Pokto (Pokto means a "wise and brave man" in Mongolian). In 1713, the Qing court granted the title of Panchen Erdeni to the 5th Panchen Lobsang Yexei. From then on, the Panchen earned his official position and the Tashilhungpo Monastery became his residence.
The Tashilhungpo Monastery is composed of four Zhacang Buddhist colleges, 62 Myicuns (organized in accor-dance with where monks come from), Buddha halls and close to 60 memorial halls and holy stupas. The censtral part of the monastery contain the Coqen Hall, the four Zhacangs, the Lhadrang palace residence for the Panchen Erdeni, the Qamba Buddha Hall and the memorial halls and holy stupas for the Panchen Lamas.
Tashilhungpo Monastery has been the political and religions center for Panchen Lamas since late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D). There are many rare and valuable historical articles in the monastery, among them a lot of gold and jade signets, imperial certificates bestowed by emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The earliest building in the monastery is the Coqen Hall (Large Scripture Hall), whose construction lasted 12 years. It is built in 1461 with financial support from Jorwo Zhabung, king of Guge Kingdom in Ngari.
In August on the Tibetan calendar each year, lamas in the Tashilhungpo Monastery hold the Ximoqenpo Festival the Holy Dance Festival. Originally a religious ritual to drive away evil spirits, it gradually evolved into a traditional festival in Xigaze.
You can take a bus at 200 meters away of the west side of the Jokhang Temple Monastery for about CNY 20. Or you can rent a jeep at Lhasa.
Recommended time for a visit: two hours.