Ganden Monastery - Holy Monastery of Gelugpa
Ganden Monastery is one of the earliest and largest Buddhist monasteries in Tibet. With over 600 years of history for building in 1409 by Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug Sect, it stands atop of the six famous temples of Gelugpa, and also known as one of the Three Great Temples, together with the Sera Monastery and the Drepung Monastery. In the meaning of happiness and contentedness in Tibetan, Ganden Monastery is the main dwelling of successive Gelug abbots and their tombs were built into pagodas for over 90 numbers. With an orderly architectural layout of standing Buddha halls, towering roofs, splendid stupas, Ganden Monastery is arranged well with vivid colors of black windows, white walls and the golden roofs, like a castle under the heaven. Besides, the kinds of architectural buildings and a large quantity of cultural relics and handicrafts are worth visiting. Along the winding twisty road up, you can appreciate the authentic holy land under the blue sky.
Ganden Monastery Facts
- Summer & Autumn
- Religious Temple; Historical Architecture
- 3,800 meters
- Wangori Mountain, Dazi County, Lhasa
History of Ganden Monastery
As the first Gelugpa Monastery, Ganden Monastery has an important role in Tibetan religious culture. It is the product of reformation movement practiced by Tsongkhapa in the early 15th century. With a high rank status in Tibet, there was a heyday for over 4000 monks lived in the monastery after the construction in 1409. In 1980, there was a thorough reconstruction for some major buildings, including the holy stupas of Tsongkhapa, scripture halls, Buddhist halls, etc.
The Founder & Gelug Sect
Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), the founder of Ganden Monastery, who was supposed to the reincarnation of Manjusri, born in Qinghai, and firstly contacted the Buddhism when he was three years old. After studying 9 years Buddhist doctrine for 9 years in Xia Qiong Temple, he left Qinghai to Tibet for further study in the year of his age of 16. In the later years, he learned from different sects’ monks and sucked up all the essential of the Buddha dharma. At the same time, he got more and more reputations in Tibet.
With the development of Tibetan Buddhism, the ill disciplines happened among the aspects of intellectual, religious and monastic in Kagyu, Sakya and more sects. Disappointed at those undesirable phenomena, Tsongkhapa reined his disciples and followers into a strict new order- the Gelug sect was established with an austerity of monastic life and emphasized the primacy of philosophical study. In order to distinguish from other sects, he and his followers wear Yellow peach shaped hat. Hence, the Gelug sect is also called the Yellow Hat sect. In 1409, the Ganden Monastery, as the first Gelug Monastery, was built near Lhasa and Tsongkhapa was the first abbot of Ganden Monastery.
Seeing Ganden Monastery from Distance
Statue of Tsongkhapa Worshipped in Ganden Monastery
Ganden Monastery Highlights
As the first Gelug temple, Ganden Monastery once was a massive building complex with typical Buddhist buildings and many historical relics reminds. What’s more, in Ganden Monastery, you can join in the grand traditional festival, called TsongkhapaButter Lamp Festival .
Historical and cultural relics
There are many precious historical and cultural relics left in Ganden Monastery, including beautiful murals and sculptures, elaborate Thangka, dating back to Ming dynasty and the armor carved with four languages and decorated with jewelries which was bestowed by Emperor Qianlong of Qing Dynasty in 1757.
As one of Tibet’s cultural centers, Ganden Monastery is composed of over 50 buildings including assemblies, shrines, chapels, pagodas and some other halls for Buddhism chanting or learning. The Tsochin Hall, the biggest assembly contains over one hundred massive pillars and different sections of lobby halls, chapels and Buddha palaces. Most of the chapels are two-storey buildings which could accommodate over one hundred Buddhists chanting at the same time.
With white walls and red roofs, those buildings have different purposes. Such as the Tri Thok Khang, known as the clothing-preserving Hall, once served as the bedchamber of Tsongkhapa and his successors, was the place for them to learn esoteric methods. And the Serdhung is the Holy Stupa Hall to keep the body of each abbot by building pagoda here.
Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival
Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival, celebrated in whole Tibet is the most important traditional festival in Ganden Monastery to mourn its founder. Hold on October 25 of Tibetan calendar, the death date of Tsongkhapa, this festival is quite solemn and grand. During the daytime, the 26 meters long, 10 meters wide tapestry of Buddha hanging outside the temple, and in the night, all the butter lamps light up the whole monastery to make the worship all-night. The local Tibetans around villages prepare the butter lamps several days in advance and light them up on that day by putting them along the window side. If you stay overnight here, you can find this region is covered with dim lighting.
Beautiful Murals Cherished in Ganden Monastery
Complex in Ganden Monastery
Butter Lamp Festival in Ganden Monastery
How to Get to Ganden Monastery
Comparing to some other attractions in Lhasa, Ganden Monastery is a bit far from city area. About 50 km away north of Lhasa, it is located in the Dazi County, at the top of Wangbur Mountain with 3800 meters above the sea level.
Usually, it takes about 1.5 hours to get to Ganden Monastery from the downtown area of Ganden Monastery by driving. The road to Ganden Monastery is rather winding but it offers great view. After Ganden Monastery, you could extend your tour for more sightseeings, such as the Drak Yerpa nearby (about 19 km), a temple built along the cliff is one of the four chakra places in Tibet.
Useful Travel Tips
The opening hour of this temple is from 9:00am to 4:00pm, except holidays and major events, with the ticket price for 45RMB per person. According to the local custom, you should visit in a clockwise direction. And do not step on the doorsill and do not smoke in the halls; do not take photos without permission; do not wear hat or sunglasses enter inside. Below are some featured activities in Ganden Monastery:
● Ganden Monastery Kora: If you have enough time, the Ganden Kora (walking in the clockwise), is great experience to meet stunning views of Kyi-chu Valley and encounter large numbers of pilgrims, rubbing holy rocks and prostrating themselves along the path.
● Photography: Summer months (June, July & August) are the best time to visit Ganden Monastery with great scenery and meet the Buddha ceremony during the Shoton Festival on June 30 of Tibetan calendar.
● Ganden-Samya Monastery Trekking: For hikers, the 80 km pilgrimage road from Ganden Monastery to Samya Monastery is worth trying during the months from May to October. In these 4 days trekking trip, you can encounter valleys, temples, lakes, hillside fields, desert, villages, groves and more to experience authentic Tibet nature.
Good View from Ganden Monastery
How to Plan A Tibet Tour
Tibet is too vast to be visited in one single trip, but planning ahead of time can make most of your holiday. A classic Tibet tour always takes about 4 ~ 8 days. Apart from 2 days for arrival and departure, it usually needs 2 other days to explore majestic Potala Palace and other landmarks in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. With a day trip’s distance from Lhasa, Namtso Lake is another perfect tour extension if you visit Tibet from May to October.
To explore further, it’s strongly recommended to travel from Lhasa to Mount Everest via Gyantse and Shigatse, which usually needs 4 more days. It is an unforgettable sightseeing trip with lots of attractions to visit, such as Yamdrok Lake, Karola Glacier, Kumbum Stupa of Palcho Monastery, Tashilhunpo Monastery, etc. Of course, the biggest draw must be gazing upon the unparalleled north face of the world’s highest peak – Mount Everest.
For Buddhist followers and hiking lovers, you are suggested to travel to Ngari to join the kora around the holy Mt. Kailash and sacred Lake Manasarovar, which usually takes about 5 ~ 8 more days from Lhasa. The wild nature of Ngari is spectacular as well.
If you are looking for a longer Himalaya adventure, you can travel Tibet with two other charming Himalayan Kingdoms – Nepal and Bhutan by overland driving or flight. If you have your own needs or interest, just feel free to contact us to customize a trip of your own!
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Escorted by a skilled private drivers and companied by a professional local tour guide to organize all the activities, all you have to do is to enjoy your fantastic Tibet journey. Time can never be wasted waiting for a group, hopping on and off buses or negotiating unfamiliar destinations.
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