Tashilhunpo Monastery

Tashilhunpo Monastery (Tibetan: བཀྲ་ཤིས་ལྷུན་པོ་), founded in 1447 by Gendun Drup, the First Dalai Lama, is a historic and culturally important monastery next to Shigatse, the second-largest city in Tibet.

It was sacked when the Gurkhas invaded Tibet and captured Shigatse in 1791 before a combined Tibetan and Chinese army drove them back as far as the outskirts of Kathmandu, when they were forced to agree to keep the peace in future, pay tribute every five years, and return what they had looted from Tashilhunpo.

The monastery is the traditional seat of successive Panchen Lamas, the second highest ranking tulku lineage in the Gelukpa tradition. The "Tashi" or Panchen Lama had temporal power over three small districts, though not over the town of Shigatse itself, which was administered by a dzongpön (prefect) appointed from Lhasa.

Located on a hill in the center of the city, the full name in Tibetan of the monastery means: "all fortune and happiness gathered here" or "heap of glory".

"If the magnificence of the place was to be increased by any external cause, none could more superbly have adorned its numerous gilded canopies and turrets than the sun rising in full splendour directly opposite. It presented a view wonderfully beautiful and brilliant; the effect was little short of magic, and it made an impression which no time will ever efface from my mind." Captain Samuel Turner, 'Embassy to the Court of the Teshu Lama,' p. 230. In:

Pilgrims circumambulate the monastery on the Lingkor (sacred path) outside the walls.

Fortunately, although two-thirds of the buildings were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, they were mainly the residences for the 4,000 monks and the monastery itself was not as extensively damaged as most other monasteries in Tibet, for it was the seat of the Panchen Lama who remained in Chinese-controlled territory.

However, during 1966 Red Guards led a crowd to break statues, burn scriptures and open the stupas containing the relics of the 5th to 9th Panchen Lamas, and throw them in the river. Some remains, though, were saved by locals and the 10th Panchen Lama in 1985 began the construction of a new stupa to house them and honour his predecessors. It was finally consecrated on 22 January 1989, just six days before he died, aged fifty-one, at Tashilhunpo. "It was as if he was saying now he could rest."

Read more about Tashilhunpo MonasteryHistory, Branch Monasteries

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