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Drepung Monastery in Lhasa Tibet

Time: 27-02-2019 This Article is Composed by BudgetTibetTour

Drepung Monastery is known as one of the three major monasteries of Lhasa along with Sera Monastery and Ganden Monastery. Drepung means ”heaps of rice” in Tibetans. It was built in the western suburbs of Lhasa in 1416. The whole monastery was built leaning the mountain, white colour being the main tone and looks like a white rice heap, thus named as Drepung. When it was first built, there were more than 10,000 monks in the monastery, making it the largest one in Tibetan Buddhism. In 1546, the third Dalai Lama was welcomed into the monastery as the first living Buddha. In the middle of the 17th century, after the Fifth Dalai Lama came to power, he established the local government in the monastery---The Ganden Phodrang and it became the political center of Tibet. There were 7,700 monks in the monastery. Since the Dalai Lama of generations used the Drepung Monastery as the mother monastery, the monastery has the highest status in the Gelug monasteries.

Drepung Monastery in Lhasa TibetDrepung Monastery in Lhasa Tibet

The main buildings include Tsochen Grand Hall、four Dratsangs、Ganden Phodran and more than 50 Kangcun the Zuchin Hall, the four major Zhacang, the Gandanpozhang and more than 50 Kangcun. The size of the Datsan in the monastery is larger than those in other monasteries. The exterior of the Drepung Monastery is decorated with gold dome、dharmachakra and etc., looking magnificent. By 1951, there were more than 10,000 people living in the monastery, making it the largest monastery with the largest number of monks in Tibet. The monastery is abundant with historical relics, Buddhist classics, arts and crafts, and collections. There are many rituals in the Drepung Monastery. On the occasion of auspicious days such as large-scale Buddhist anniversaries and the 15th and 30th day in every month according to Tibetan calendar, the corresponding ceremonies must be held. There are often activities to celebrate together by commons and monks, the biggest of which is the the Shoton Festival on June 30th of the Tibetan calendar. On the day of the Shoton Festival, a large-scale Buddha image of Thangka was displayed at the center of the Drepung Monastery, and a Tibetan opera performance was held. In 1982, Drepung Monastery was listed as a national key cultural relics protection unit. From 1982 to 1989, the government allocated 1.62 million yuan to repair the monastery from various aspects, making it a Buddhist sacred place for Buddhists and tourists from home and abroad.

Tsochen Grand Hall of Drepung Monastery

It is located at the center of the monastery and is the activity center for the whole monastery. It covers an area of about 4,500 square metres and can accommodate 7,000 people at the same time. There is a stone pavilion in front of the main hall, covering an area of more than 2,000 square metres. The main building of the hall is composed of porch, scripture hall, Duisong Lha Khang and Miwang Lha Khang.

Drepung Monastery in Lhasa Tibet

  1. Porch. There are in total 8 columns connecting to the 17-step stone steps of the monastery Square.
  2. Scripture hall is a place for monks in the monastery to chant scriptures and hold ceremonies. It is 50.1 metres long from east to west, 35.8 metres wide from north to south, and covers an area of about 1800 square metres. It has 183 columns and 221 rooms. The center rises to a certain height to form a skylight, with an area of more than 100 square metres. In the middle is the statue of Mañjuśrī, surrounded by border ornaments and sculptures.
  3. Duisong Lha Khang. It is one of the earliest Lha Khang in the monastery. The center is dedicated to the image of the Buddha, and the shrines are three gliding bronze towers with Dīpankara Buddha lighting and the Maitreya (Future Buddha) on the left and right sides The Buddhas shrines are silver stupas. On both sides of the hall there are statues of eight disciples with a height of more than 1 zhang. There is a porch surrounded Lha Khang. The northern part of the cloister retains precious early wall paintings. At the exits of the cloisters on both sides there is a plaque written during Tongzhi period, which is 3 mretres long, 1.2 metres wide and 4 centimetres thick.
  4. Miwang Lha Khang. It is located on the left side of Duisong Lha Khang. there is a tall statue of12-year-old Maitreya. The statue is called Miwang Maitreya and the construction was funded by Miwang Polhanai.
  5. Lunbeng Lha Khang. Located on the right side of Duisong Lha Khang. There is a built-in tower in the Lha Khang, with two smaller white towers in the front and three small silver towers in the back. At the center is spiritual tower for the 3rd Dalai Lama, being 6.16 metres high; on the north side is the spiritual tower for the 4th Dalai Lama, being 5.57 metres high. All spiritual towers are all wrapped in silver and embellished with jewels. The third and fourth Dalai Lama towers used 14800 liang silver. Drepung Monastery in Lhasa Tibet
  6. Kangyur Lha Khang. It is located on the second floor of the main hall, with many classics of Kangyur reserved in it. The original there were three precious collections, namely the Tibetan Tripitaka given by Yunnan Tusi Mu Zeng in the late Ming Dynasty, woodcut scriptures during the period of Kangxi in Qing Dynasty, and the whole Kangyur transcribed with gold to celebrate the birthday of Dalai Lama in 1675 (the 14th year of Emperor Kangxi ).
  7. It is located in the northwest corner of the main hall. The building is square with spires. It is dedicated to the giant bronze statue of Maitreya. It was made when he was 8 years old under the order of Tsongkhapa. There is a conch in front of the Buddhist monastery, which is said to be a sacred gift given by Tsongkhapa. On the door of the Buddhist monastery, there is a Chinese-language plaque of "穆隆元善" hanging over, which was engraved in 1846 and was made by the Minister of Tibet, Qi Shan on his departure.
  8. Buddha Hall. It is located on the fourth floor of the main hall, it is dedicated to Buddha. It is made of 500 liang silver with 13 silver towers on both sides. There is golden hip-and-gable roof on the top and gorgeous arch under the golden top.

Ganden Phodrang of the Drepung Monastery

It is the living place for Dalai Lama in Drepung Monastery, located on the left side of the front of the monastery. It was built in 1530 by the second Dalai Lama. It was the living place of the 2nd to the 5th Dalai Lama before they moved to the Potala Palace. When the Fifth Dalai Lama established a local government and dealt with government affairs in this Phodrang. The Ganden Phodrang once became the political centre in Tibet. The Ganden Phodrang can be divided into three parts: a small courtyard, a large courtyard, and a main building.

Drepung Monastery in Lhasa Tibet

  1. The small courtyard is located in the forefront, with two-story office building on the left and an old tree on the right which is said to be the same age as Phodrang.
  2. The large courtyard is located behind the small courtyard. There are two-storey corridor-like architecture and partly dwellings on the left and right sides and on the front.
  3. Main building is located at the back, the ground is about 2 metres above the courtyard. There are 3 floors, the second of which is the main place for the Dalai Lama to handle political and religious affairs. On the left side of the second floor, there is a scripture chamber with the fifth Dalai Lama’s throne placed in the center. The throne is carved exquisitely.

Cultural Relics in the Drepung Monastery

There are many precious cultural relics in the monastery, mainly including porcelain, Thangka, and Buddhist books. These cultural relics are of great value for studying the history, religion and art of Tibet.

Drepung Monastery in Lhasa Tibet

  1. Porcelain of all ages. There are several generations of porcelain of the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, most of which were of the Qing Dynasty. Most of them are the cups and small bowls.
  2. Thangka. There are hundreds of Thangka preserved in the monastery, most of which are of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
  3. Scriptures. There are various types of scriptures and a set of Tibetan Tripitaka, a total of 108 volumes, installed in 54 specially-made wooden boxes. There are more than 100 Buddhist classics Kangyur and more than 100 Buddhist commentaries, Tengyur, and hundreds of Buddhist classic manuscripts written by Tsongkhapa and his two followers.
  4. Mañjuśrī bronze mirror. It is 1.29 metres high, and the Mañjuśrī statues are engraved on both sides. The mirror seat is a sandalwood carving, which was given to the Fifth Dalai Lama by the Emperor Shunzhi.
  5. Bronze statues. There are more than a thousand removable bronze statues in the monastery, including statues of Buddha, Bodhisattvas, and various ancestral statues and Tantric statues. Among them are the statues of the gilded bronze Buddha presented by the imperial court envoy of the Ming Dynasty.
  6. Ancient weapons are well preserved in a large volume.
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