KEY FACTS ABOUT TASHI LHUNPO
School of Buddhism: Gelug (Yellow Hat)
Founded: 1447 by Gendun Drup, the disciple of Tsongkhapa
Altitude: about 3,800 m
HISTORY AND SIGNIFICANCE OF TASHI LHUNPO
Tashi Lhunpo, sometimes spelled Tashilhunpo. Tibetan བཀྲ་ཤིས་ལྷུན་པོ.
Tashi Lhunpo Monastery is located in Shigatse, the second largest city in Tibet. It is one of the six great Gelugpa monasteries. The other five are Drepung, Sera and Ganden monasteries in Lhasa, Kumbum (Taer Si) and Labrang in Amdo, Eastern Tibet (Gansu and Qinghai provinces).
Gendun Drup, the disciple of Tsongkhapa (founder of Gelug sect) founded Tashi Lhunpo in 1447. Gendun Drup was later named the first Dalai Lama. His remains are enshrined within Tashi Lhunpo.
The monastery is a seat of Panchen Lama, the second most important Lama in Tibet after the Dalai Lama.
In the heyday the monastery was a home to 4,000 monks. Nowadays around 900 monks live there. Tashi Lhunpo monks wear distinctive red shoes.
There were four colleges within the monastery. The Abbots of the colleges were responsible for the search of every successive Panchen Lama. Abbots were involved in political life of Tibet, often ruling from Lhasa alongside the Dalai Lama.
Monastery withstood Cultural Revolution well, compared to most of the other monasteries in Tibet. However, many of the relicts, statues and paintings were lost or destroyed. Among the lost items were relics from Panchen Lamas tomb stupas. The 10th Panchen Lama initiated construction of the stupa that now houses relics and remains of 5th through 9th Panchen Lamas.
THE MOST PROMINENT CHAPELS
Chapel of Jampa (Future Buddha)
We usually start the visit to Tashi Lhunpo from the Chapel of Jampa (Maitreya or Future Buddha). It is the largest gilded statue in the world. The statue is 26 meters tall, and it is said to have 300 kg of gold gilding on it.
We continue to the Victory Chapel. The central statue in a chapel is the statue of Tsongkhapa, who is accompanied by Maitreya and Manjushri on the sides.
Tomb of the 10th Panchen Lama
After visiting Victory Chapel, we head towards the tomb of the 10th Panchen Lama. He was one of the most popular Lamas in Tibet. You can see his photographs in many monasteries in Tibet, and in most of the chapels of Tashi Lhunpo.
We can see 10th Panchen Lama’s tomb stupa and the Kalachakra Mandala on the ceiling above it.
Tomb of the Fourth Panchen Lama
The tomb stupa of the Fourth Panchen Lama remained untouched during the Cultural Revolution.
After visiting tomb stupas, we are heading towards the main building of the complex – Kelsang Temple. Monks gather in a large open courtyard in front of it for chanting and festival celebrations. There is a large pole in a center of the yard.
Main Assembly hall
The hall houses the statue of Shakyamuni Buddha in the center of its inner chapel. On the main hall you will see the Panchen Lama’s throne, and rows of cushings for monks.
Tomb stupa of Panchen Lamas: from Fifth to the Ninth
The Tenth Panchen Lama constructed the stupa to keep the relics from the stupas destructed during the Cultural Revolution. The stupa was consecrated by the Panchen Lama only a few days before his death in 1989.
WALK AROUND THE MONASTERY
You can see many Tibetans walking the kora around the monastery walls. It takes approximately 1 hour and you will get an amazing view on Shigatse from the hill above Tashi Lhunpo.
Tashi Lhunpo is one of a very few monasteries in Tibet where you can take photos in some chapels. Each chapel will charge a photography fee.
PLACES TO VISIT NEARBY
Although you still cannot visit the inside of the Shigatse dzong(fort), the view of the structure overlooking the old town of Shigatse is impressive. The best way to see it is to walk the kora around Tashi Lhunpo.
Located about 20km from Shigatse, Shalu is an interesting small monastery with long history. It belongs to Bodong school of Tibetan Buddhism. Inside, you will see ancient 3-d murals, 14th century painted mandalas and other old religious objects.
EVEREST BASE CAMP
Most of the travelers visiting Shigatse head to the Everest Base Camp in Tibet. Indeed, it is hard to resist the temptation to see the majestic Everest while in Tibet. Nowadays there is a good connecting Shigatse with Everest and you can reach it within one day. if you want to spend more time on the way to Everest to acclimatize to high altitude better, you can travel through Sakya monastery and reach Everest in 2 days.
RECOMMENDED TOURS VISITING TASHI LHUNPO
8 DAYS LHASA TO EVEREST TOUR
A beautiful and exciting journey, starting in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet and going to the Everest Base Camp. The tour visits Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera, Drepung and Tashilhunpo monasteries, Kumbum Stupa, Yamdrok Lake and Karola glaciers.
6 DAYS CENTRAL TIBET HIGHLIGHTS
This private tour starts in Lhasa, where we spend the first three days acclimatizing. While in Lhasa, we visit UNESCO World Heritage sites: Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple, and two main monasteries in Lhasa: Sera and Drepung. After that, we will drive on the scenic road visiting Yamdrok Lake, Karola glaciers and Gyantse monastery, before reaching Shigatse in the evening.
On the next day we visit Tashi Lhunpo monastery before returning back to Lhasa.
10 DAYS MEDITATION TOUR
On this tour you will experience Tibetan culture, visit incredible landmarks and see the natural beauty of Tibet. At the same time, we will travel to the most peaceful and special places where the greatest Buddhist Lamas have been meditating for years.