KEY FACTS ABOUT YUMBULAGANG
Yumbulagang Palace: originally the first fortress in Tibet, Yumbulagang is also the first palace in Tibet. Later converted to Gelug order temple.
Founded: the exact date is unknown. Most likely Tibetan King Nyatri Tsenpo founded it in the 2nd century, some sources date it to about 2,000 years ago.
Location: Yarlung Valley, 8 km from Tsedang.
Alternative spelling: Yumbulakhang, Yumbu Lhakhang, Yumbu Lagang.
Yumbulagang is located on the Tashi Mountain, about 14 km from Tsedang.
The temple got its name from the Tashi Mountain that resembles a deer. “Yumbu” in Tibetan means female deer. “Lhakhang” in Tibetan means shrine. Yumbulagang is the first palace in Tibetan History. It also served as a fortress.
The easiest way to visit Yumbulagang is to drive there from Tsedang. There is a parking lot at the base of the mountain. From there, you can walk up the hill or hire a horse. Part of the road is paved and has stairs, part of it is a natural dirt road. Climbing up can take 15-25 minutes.
From the top of the hill, you will get a great view of the accurate farmers’ fields in the valley and a small town Nedong. You can also climb another hill nearby generously decorated with thousands of prayer flags. From this hill, you will get an iconic view on Yumbulagang and the zig-zag road leading up to it. After that, you can walk a short circuit around the monastery to get a better view of the valley below.
The exact date of the construction of Yumbulagang is unknown. Historical sources indicate that it was built in the 2nd century by the first Tibetan king. However, some research shows that the base of Yumbulagang might be even earlier. Originally, it had very thick walls and served as a fortress.
The first king of Tibet was Nyatri Tsenpo. His name means the King of Shoulders. He received this name because when he was recognized as a king, people lifted him up on their shoulders. Yumbulagang served as his first palace in Tibet.
According to the legends, the first Buddhist scriptures fell on the roof of Yumbulagang in the 5th century. These texts are called “Awesome Secret” and contained about 400 scriptures. However, no one could understand them until the time of King Songtsen Gampo.
In the 7th century, King Songtsen Gampo moved the capital of Tibet to Lhasa, and Yumbulagang was converted into a shrine. He expanded Yumbulagang adding two new chapels. King and Wencheng, one of his princesses, continued to use it as their summer residence.
Later, the fifth Dalai Lama built a golden roof and converted it into a Gelug order monastery.
Unfortunately, during the cultural revolution, the original structure was damaged. The building was restored in 1982. Another round of repairs to both exterior and interior finished in 2019.
WHAT TO SEE IN YUMBULAGANG
The iconic watchtower is 11m high, with its sides measuring 4.6m by 3.5m. The tower has 3 floors. Since it served as a fortress in its early days, the tower has very thick walls. The entrance to the first 2 floors of the tower is behind the statues of the main building chapels and is closed for visitors. You can visit the main chapels located on 2 floors.
When entering the chapel on the first floor, you will see old murals depicting visions of Tsongkhapa. The main statue of the chapel is Shakyamuni Buddha with statues of Tibetan Kings on the sides: Nyatri Tsenpo, Songtsen Gampo, Trisong Detsen, and others.
To visit the second-floor chapel, you will go up the stairs from an outside terrace. Inside you will see beautiful old murals. The murals depict the early history of Tibet and Yumbulagang. There is a scene of Nyatri Tsenpo, the first king of Tibet descending from the skies and arriving at Yumbulakhang. Then, a story when religious scriptures fell on the roof of Yumbulakhang. There are murals depicting Padma Sambhava and his 8 manifestations, 21 Taras, Shakyamuni with his 16 disciples, and protectors.
PLACES TO VISIT NEAR YUMBULAGANG
Tradruk Temple was built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century and might even predate Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. It is located in Tsedang and you can visit both Tradruk and Yumbulagang in one day. Temple houses a very important statue of the standing Tara. The real gem of the temple is pearl thangka made of over 29,000 pearls, gold, and other precious stones.
Samye Monastery is the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet. The complex layout resembles the shape of a mandala. Utse, the main temple in the center of the complex has three floors, and each floor represents a different architectural style. There are four stupas on the four cardinal directions, chapels representing continents and subcontinents. To appreciate the beauty of the monastery you can climb the nearby Hepo Ri hill to view the entire complex from above.
Mindrolling is one of the six great Nyingmapa Monasteries. It is located on the way from Lhasa to Tsedang. Buildings of the complex are made of beautiful brown stones, and large tall white stupa dominates the landscape. Inside Mindrolling you can see some old murals and old original statues.
TOURS VISITING YUMBULAGANG
This private tour takes you from Lhasa to Yarlung Valley and Samye Monastery. Yarlung valley is the birthplace of Tibetan civilization. You can see Yumbulakhang, an ancient fort and the first surviving building in Tibet. After that, you will visit Samye, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet.
This tour will take you to the birthplace of Tibetan culture. From these places Tibetan civilization as we know it emerged. You will visit Lhasa first and explore Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Drepung, Sera, and Ganden monastery. After that, we will drive to Yarlung valley. First, we will visit Tradruk Monastery and Yumbulakhang. After that, we will continue journey to Samye monastery.