Sakya Monastery - The Origin of Sakyapa Sect

Sakya Monastery is the principal monastery of the Sakyapa Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, located in Sakya County, about 160 kilometers southwest of Shigatse, on the road to Tingri in Tibet. Built in 1073 by Khon Khonchong Gyalpo, on the hill side with gray earth surrounded, it means the “Grey Soil” in Tibetan. Divided by river, this monastery is consists of the northern part (in the hillside) and the southern part (lies in the valley). Different from other monasteries in Lhasa, its wall painted in red, white and grey strips, which represent Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani, as a special architecture to distinguish from other Buddhist schools, which is easily to find out from a distance. As the first temple of Sakyapa with over 900 years history, it kept many historical relics, including numerous stupas, Buddhist scriptures, magnificent surviving artwork, Tibetan Thangkas and more. Here, you can not only discover the history of the religion, but also explore a combination of cultures.

Norbulingka Facts


#16 of 34 Attractions in Tibet

Summer & Autumn
Religious Site, Historical Architecture
4,300 meters
Sakya County, Southwest of Shigatse City
  • History
  • Highlights
  • Transportation
  • Tips
  • Tour Plan

Sakya Monastery Construction History

The northern monastery, with grand in scale and had many constructions, was the first building of Sakya, founded in 1073 by Kun Gongjor Gyibo. After the political power transferred to the southern monastery in 14th century, it was no longer for further extension. Due to the destruction in 1960, only 2-storey hall remained for today, the other parts were all in ruins. Fortunately, the southern monastery is well preserved.

Constructed in 1288, the southern monastery was built by Drogon Chogyal Pagba, 5th Sakya Throne Holder and had several further reconstructions before the 9th Sakya Throne Holder. With 214 meters wide and 210 meters long, it covers about 45,000 square meters and combined with the architecture of Han, Indian and Tibetan styles. The whole layout is a square and defense by firm walls and watchtowers built in the center. Surrounded by rivers, this monastery had a series of defense system.

For the history of over 900 years, Sakya Monastery not only recorded the history of the combination of religion and politics in Tibet but also deemed as the sign that Tibet was brought into Chinese domain officially.

When talking about Sakya Monastery, the Sakya sect should be mentioned. As one of the Tibetan Buddhism schools, Sakya sect once played an important role during the Yuan dynasty and ruled Tibet for more than 70 years. Below is some brief information about this sect.

● Founder of Sakyapa Sect: Kun Gongjor Gyibo (1034 -1102);

● Clothes: the Sakyapa monks wear red, lotus hat and dress in a red robes;

● Tradition: The Sakyapa sect allows marriage and its religious power is descended from paternal uncle to nephew while its political authority from father to son.

Sakya Monastery Inside Sakya Monastery Sakya Monastery Ceremony Sakya Monastery

Sakya Monastery Highlights

Large Collection of Sutras

A huge library of as many as 84,000 scrolls were found sealed up in a wall 60 metres long and 10 metres high at Sakya Monastery in 2003. It is expected that most of them will prove to be Buddhist scriptures although they may well also include works of literature, and on history, philosophy, astronomy, mathematics and art. They are thought to have remained untouched for hundreds of years.

Tibetan Traditional Art (Thankas & Murals)

The monastery has a colossal collection of highly valuable art pieces, including abundance handwriting sutra that is said that copied by all the Tibetan calligraphists organized by Basiba. Sakya's collection of treasures also contains 3,000 pieces of sutras that have thousands of year history. The mural in Sakya Monastery is quite different from Dunhuang that has already become relic. Here the mural is still passed on from generation to generation.

Religious Ceremonies

If you want to experience Diamond Buddhism Rituals, you can come in summer and winter when there will be large-scale and characteristic Diamond Buddhism Rituals. When performing the Holy Dance, the dancers all wear masks of Sakya Monastery Guard God and other different holy beasts. The holy dance vividly reflects the basic content of Tibetan Mizong holy dance killing devils. During these two rituals, thousands of lamas and crowd will come and worship, praying the holy dance and bring happiness and fortune to human beings. And this is the golden season for travel in this monastery.

Sakya Monastery Sutras in Sakya Monastery Sakya Monastery Ornate Murals Sakya Monastery

How to Get to Sakya Monastery

Sakya Monastery is situated in the western corner of Sakya Town which is a small Tibetan town with population of about 5,000. Leaving Driving 150km westwards along the National Road 318 from Shigats City, after passing a short sideway, travelers will get to Sakya Monastery. 49km away from the monastery is a bigger town of Lhatse which is great place for a night break.

Sakya Monastery is usually visited as a excursion by travelers whose final destination is Mount Everest because it is located near the way to Mount Everest. If you travel from Lhasa to Kathmandu, you can also take a visit to this monastery.

Useful Travel Tips

● Ticket & Opening Hours: 50 rmb per person is charged to enter inside and the opening hour is from 09:00-12:00 and 14:00-18:30.

● Clockwise Visit: After entering the temple, you must walk clockwise from left to right.

● Get to Sakya Monastery from Shigatse: There are buses running through Shigatse downtown to Sakya Monastery about 5 hours. Or you can rant private car to visit to save much time. If you join in our Tibet tours, a free transfer will offered for you to visit this monastery and more attractions with your request.

● Panorama View & Photography: On the way to reach Sakay Monastery, with a short distance, where is a great location to have a panorama view of the layout with well-bedded monk houses and local Tibetan buildings. If you want to photograph the spectacular scenery of river encircled monastery, the opposite mountain is a perfect shooting point.

● Meditation: Comparing with other Tibetan temples, the tranquility with clean atmosphere is more suitable for meditation and worth to try.

Sakya Monastery Meditating in Sakya 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.

☛ 4 Days Holy City Lhasa Private Tour - Heart of Tibet

☛ 5 Days Lhasa City and Holy Lake Namtso Tour

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.

☛ 6 Days Lhasa Gyantse Shigatse Historical Tour

☛ 8 Days Everest Base Camp Tour - Top of the World

☛ 9 Days Tibet Discovery Tour plus Everest and Namtso Expedition

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.

☛ 13 Days Mt. Kailash & Lake Manasarovar Trekking Tour

☛ 16 Days Mt.Kailash Pilgrimage Private Tour

If you have your own needs or interest, just feel free to contact us to customize a trip of your own!

Potala Palace Lhasa, Namtso, Mount Everest and Ngari are four most popular destinations in Tibet

Recommended Tour Packages

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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