- Location: No. 276, Beijing West Road, Chengguan District, Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, China
- Recommended reason: One of the top six monasteries of Gelug Sect; the largest temple of Tibetan Buddhism
- Opening hours: 9:00-16:00
Located in the western suburb of Lhasa, the Drepung Monastery is a must-visit place for tourists, especially for Buddhist believers. Drepung Monastery is not only the largest monastery of Tibetan Buddhism, but also the largest temple in the world. It holds the highest position in the monasteries of Gelug Sect.
History of Drepung Monastery
Drepung Monastery, Gandan Monastery and Sera Monastery are collectively known as the three major temples in Lhasa. Drepung Monastery was built in 1416 AD by Jiangyang Qujie, a disciple of Tsongkhapa who is the founder of Gelug Sect. Tsongkhapa asked his disciples to wear a uniform yellow hat when they preached, so Gelug Sect also called Yellow Sect or Shamanism.
There were more than 10,000 monks in the Drepung Monastery before liberation. Once the Drepung Monastery completed, it quickly developed into the most powerful monastery in the Gelug monasteries. Many Buddhist temples were built in 1464 to teach Buddhist scriptures. Drepung Monastery is the mother temple of the Dalai Lama by successive generations. Most of the Lamas in the Drepung Monastery are very friendly. All believers would learn a lot from the Lamas if the Lamas agreed to accompany them to visit the monastery.
After 1951, the government of China attached great importance to the renovation and the cultural relics protection of the Drepung Monastery, and it became a Buddhist holy place for believers and pilgrims around the world. After the democratic reform in 1959, the feudal privileges of the temple and the system of oppression were completely abolished. Drepung Monastery was returned to be a place for religious activities for the majority of monks and believers. Drepung Monastery was listed as one of the key cultural relic protection units in Tibet in 1962, and was listed as a national key cultural relic protection unit in 1982.
The Structure of Drepung Monastery
Located in the southern slope of the Mountain Genpei Wuzi, Drepung Monastery covers an area of about 250,000 square meters with 141 manors and 540 pastures. There are no plants or trees around the Drepung Monastery, only gravel and rocks. The white houses are built along the slope layer by layer, which looks like an enormous rice pile from a far distance. Drepung refers to the rice pile which is a symbol of prosperity. There were seven priestly schools in the Drepung Monastery and were merged into four schools, including Luoselin, Guomang, Deyang and Aba. Most of the main buildings in the Drepung Monastery were built successively during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
Highlights of Drepung Monastery
Covering an area of 4,500 square meters, Cuoqin Hall is located in the center of the Drepung Monastery. There is a stone-paved square in front of the Cuoqin Hall. Walk up the 17 wide steps, and you will see the Bright Corridor with 8 columns. The Sutra Hall covers an area of 1,800 square meters with 183 exquisite columns. Besides, it is well decorated with the beautiful Thangka, Buddhist statue, mural, and so on. It has a large capacity of 8,000 persons. There are also a large number of ancient Tibetan documents and scriptures t in the Drepung Monastery. Cuoqin Hall enshrines the major Buddhist statue " Right-handed Shankha". The coffin towers of the 2nd, the 3rd and the 4th Dalai Lamas are preserved here. The Dalai Lama is the title of the supreme leader and the largest living Buddha of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is regarded as the incarnation of Guanyin Bodhisattva.
Two silver towers in the side room of the Cuoqin Hall are the coffin towers of the third Dalai Lama and the fourth Dalai Lama. At the back of the Cuoqin Hall is one of the earliest shrines in Drepung Monastery where Jiangyang Qujie did spiritual practice. It enshrines the third Dalai Lama and their respective second disciples. Besides, the Hall of Patriarch is located on the third floor. There is a Scripture pavilion and the Qiangpatong True Buddha Hall where enshrines the 8-year-old bronze statue of Qiangpa Buddha. The shankha on the bronze statue is the relic of Sakyamuni. It is well-known as the treasure of the Drepung Monastery.
Sho Dun Festival
As one of the most important festivals in Tibet, Sho Dun Festival started in the Drepung Monastery and then spread widely around the whole Tibet. In general, Sho Dun Festival is taken place in the 6th or 7th Tibetan month. Tibetans and believers come to the Drepung Monastery and pitch tents here. This piece of barren hills becomes a colorful tent city overnight. There are even a few bustling festival streets. It seems that almost the whole Lhasa is moved to the Drepung Monastery. All people live in the wild with singing and dancing all day and night. This is the most energetic day of the Lhasa people. The traditional Sho Dun Festival begins with the exhibition of a huge and colorful weaving of Sakyamuni Buddha figure, with the main activities of Tibetan opera performance, fete, yak racing and the wonderful equestrian performance. Thousands of Buddhist believers give the monks yogurt as a present to reward and appreciate them. People sincerely pray for health, longevity and good harvest.
Best time to visit Drepung Monastery
♦ The best time to visit the Drepung Monastery is from April to October.
♦ The religious event will be held on Wednesdays. Numerous Lamas gathered in the Drepung Monastery to read the Scriptures. The scene is very spectacular.
How to Get to Drepung Monastery
♦ You can take the public buses No. 17, 24, 25 to the Drepung Monastery Station and walk along Dangba Road for about 30 minutes.
♦ Or you can take a taxi to the Drepung Monastery directly.
Tips for visiting Drepung Monastery
♦ Visitors should respect the customs and habits of Tibetans.
♦ Don't make loud noises or disturb prayers during your visit.
♦ Recommended tour for you: 13 Days China Tibet Tour