Drepung Monastery

Drepung Monastery

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Built in 1416, Drepung Monastery is the first of the three principle monasteries of the Gelugpa School of Buddhism. Gelugpa, or Yellow Hat, Buddhism is the branch followed by most Tibetans, and the most influential figure in this faith is the Dalai Lama. Drepung Monastery used to be the living quarters of Dalai Lamas before the reconstruction of the Potala Palace by the Fifth Dalai Lama between 1645 and 1694. Drepung was listed as a national cultural relic in 1982.

Drepung Monastery lies five kilometers west of Lhasa city under Mount Gambo Utse. Surrounded by the dark faces of mountains, its grand white buildings stand out shining in the sunlight. If taking bus 3, 301 or 3O2, you will have to walk a long way from the bus stop to the gate of the monastery. A 20 yuan taxi ride will bring you right to the gate.

The Fifth Dalai Lama enlarged Drepung and ruled there while the Potala was being built. This magnificent monastery was developed to an enormous scale, resembling a huge walled city. From its roofs, one can enjoy a scenic view of Lhasa City.

In this monastery, the most important activity is called Shai Dafo ('Sunning the Buddha'), which means to take the giant Buddha (actually a giant banner depicting Buddha called a Thangka) outside into the sunlight. The festival is held on the first day of the Shoton Festival, or the Yoghurt Festival, around early August every year. It is the busiest day around the monastery with crowded people and heavy traffic. When the sun rises, the huge Thangka is taken from the monastery and extended up the mountainside. Tibetans pray under the Thangka and circle it in a long queue. The best place to take a photo of Giant Living Buddha Thangka is from the opposite mountain.

According to religious records, during the foundation of Drepung, Tsongkhapa, the founder of Gelugpa Buddhism, discovered a magical white conch shell with counter clockwise swirls, believed to be buried by the Buddha Sakyamuni. Tsong Khapa bestowed this religious treasure to Drepung, and it can still be seen today in the Great Sutra Chanting Hall.

As the most powerful of the Gelugpa monasteries, Drepung had seven colleges and, at its height, housed over 10,000 monks. It owns many splendid murals, elaborate statues and other rich treasures. A giant golden statue of Buddha called Jiangba Tongzhenma sits near the precious conch shell.

It’s more convenient by Taxi than by bus, and the fee is about RMB 20 yuan.

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Tips & articles

On the slope of the wuze Hill in Genbei five kilometers northwest of Lhasa, the Drepung Monastery was built in 1416 and is the largest of the monastery of the Gelug Sect. It covers and area of 250,000 square meters. In its heyday, it had more than 10,000 monks...Read More
Drepung Monastery, situated west of Lhasa, was founded in 1416 by one of Tsong Khapa's disciples. It was the largest and richest of the three major Yellow Sect monasteries in Lhasa, and it also became the most powerful. It is one of the largest monasteries in ...Read More
Drepung Monastery is one of the great three Gelukpa university monasteries of Tibet, along with Gandan and Sera Monasteries, located at the foot of Mount Gephel in the west of Lhasa. Looking far into the distance, row upon row of white structures spread over ...Read More

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by Timandra 2011-05-23
Sera Monastery The Sera Monastery at the foot of Tatipu Hill is located in the northern suburb of Lhasa City. It is one of three famous monasteries in Lhasa along with the Drepung Monastery and the Ganden Monastery. The Sera Monastery is dedicated to the Gelugpa or Yellow Hat Sect, a branch of Tibetan Buddhism, founded by Tsong Khapa. Jamchen Chojey, one of ...
by Nika 2011-05-23
Sera means 'Hailstone' in Tibetan, and legend tells that it hailed during the foundation of this famous monastery. Sera was the last of the three principal Yellow Sect monasteries to be built in Lhasa. Unlike Drepung and Gandan, it was not built on a mountainside, but at the foot of the 'Wudu Hill' to the north of Lhasa city. It was completed in 1419, under ...
by Kamil 2011-05-20
Blessings for All By staff reporter XING WEN EVERY August, Tibetans on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau gather to hold the most important gala of the year Shoton Festival. In the Tibetan language, sho means yoghurt and ton means feast. It falls on the end of the sixth month of the Tibetan calendar (usually in August) and lasts for five to seven days till the ...