Drepung Monastery lies in the west of Lhasa under Mount Gambo Utse, clustered all around by the black mountain, with its grand white buildings shining under the sun.
Built in 1416, it is considered one of the largest monasteries of the 6 principle monasteries of the Gelu Sect in China. Drepung Monastery used to be the living palace of Dalai Lamas before the reconstruction of Potala Palace (after the 5th Dalai Lama was bestowed by Qing emperor Qianlong).
The Shoton Festival (雪顿节) is held in the late six month to the early seventh month of Tibetan calendar. In Tibetan, Sho means yoghurt and ton means feast, so the festival is a day for eating yoghurt. On Shoton Festival, a large Thangka (唐卡) on which printed a big Buddha will be displayed on the slope of the mountain.
At that day, hundreds of thousand people gather there to worship the big Buddha Thangka. From the second day of Shoton Festival, there comes another highlight. The Tibetan opera will be played in the zong jiao lu kang (宗角禄康), right in front of the Potala Palace and Norbulingka every day. It will last several days to the end of the festival.
Seeing the Landscape of Drepung Monastery
The buildings in Tibet have its own feature. Nearly all the buildings are white walls made of bricks and red roofs. With the cloud fluttering around, every angle can be picturesque to the visitors. Monastery is an important component in Tibet. Some monasteries are not allowed to take photos but visitors can absorb the serene atmosphere look at the beautiful and art frescos and Thangkas.
To go to the monastery, visitors have to climb up the stairs. Along the path to the monastery, there are prayer wheels. The classics say that rolling the prayer wheels can purify the mind and drive away the strange disease.
The monastery was founded in 1416 by a disciple of Tsong Khapa, Yangjiangque Jie. Yangjiangque Jie was born in a poor family in Shannanyedi, Tibet. He studied hard in his childhood and later became a disciple of the famous Tsong Khapa (renowned as one of the leading teachers of Tibetan Buddhism), specializing in sutra.
At last he became well-known for his mastery of Xianzhong, part of the esoteric sect. In order to spread abroad the tenet, Tsong Khapa entrusted Yangjiangque Jie to build a grand monastery and presented him with a lucky symbol: a conch shell. Under the patron of a noble family, Yangjiangqu Jie started to build this monastery in 1416.
Drepung Monastery was first named "Baidenzhebang" which means Rice Heap in Tibetan. After its construction, Yangjiangque Jie was appointed as the first tripas (a Buddhist spiritual leader). There are 23 tripas altogether. In 1464, colleges were set up to teach Tantra in this monastery.
Drepung Monastery is called the original monastery of Lamaism because it has been the living place of the Dalai Lama of four generations. The 2nd Dalai Lama built a palace (named Gedanpozhang) inside where he took over the administrative power of Tibet.
Solo Adventure Tips:
West suburb of Lhasa
How to Get There?
It’s more convenient by Taxi than by bus, and the fee is about RMB 20 yuan.
9: 00 to 16: 00
1. If taking bus 3, 301 or 302 to access Drepung Monastery, you will have to walk a long distance from the bus stop to the gate. A taxi can bring you directly to the entrance and costs 20 Yuan RMB.
2. In this monastery, the most important project is Shaidafo (a Buddha), which holds the grand Shonton Festival ceremony in the early part of August every year. This is thus the busiest day of the year with heavy crowds and traffic. When the sun rises, the huge Thangkas will extend to half of the mountain. The Tibetans will pray under the Thangkas and encircle it in a long queue. At last, Giant Living Buddha will touch their heads to give blessings to them.
3. The best place to take photos of Giant Living Buddha is from the flat on the opposite mountain.