Ganden Monastery is the greatest and the oldest of the six Gelug Sect's monasteries, which is called one of the "Three Principal Monasteries' (the other two are Dreprung Monastery and Sera Monastery). At its peak, it had a registration of more than 4,000 monks.
Tsong Khapa, founder of Gelug Sect, established it as the first Gelug monastery in 15th century when he carried out the religious reform in Tibet. The full name of Ganden Monastery is Xizhuzhuenshengzhou in Chinese. Some scholars call it as "Jushan"or "Jile" monastery. In 1733, Emperor Yongzhen of Qing dynasty bestowed the name "Yongtai". And Gandenpai (Gelug Sect's original name) which means exhortation, also named after the Ganden Monastery.
A legend says that when Tsong Khapa was born, there was a Buddhist tree growing from the bleeding cut of his umbilical cord. And there was an image of a lion roaring towards Buddha on every leaf on this tree that had 100,000 leaves.
What to See
Elegant frescoes and sculptures and cultural relics are well preserved in the Ganden Monastery. Among the collections, there are gold, silver and jewelry, armors with Chinese, Manchu language, Mongolian and Tibetan written on them and many delicate Thangkas. The precious 24 Thangkas presented by Emperor Yongle of Ming Dynasty shows the sublime position of Ganden Monastery.
The 25th day of the tenth month of Tibetan calendar every year is the the anniversary of the death of Tsong Khapa. At that day, the monks of Ganden Monastery will hang and display the big Buddha Thangka in the daytime and at night, the whole monastery will be lighted up to show the respect of Tsong Khapa.
In the first month of Tibetan canlendar every year, there will be a three-week long display of the 24 Thangkas presented by Emperor Yongle of Ming Dynasty for the monks to appreciate and revere. It is called the Ganden Thangka Festival (甘丹绣唐节).
Ganden Monastery was set up in the early 15th century by Tsong Khapa (the founder of Gelug). According to the legend, he learned to read at the age of 3, and entered into religion at 7 with the religious name of Luosanzhaba, and made the present name Tsong Khapa for himself as a respectable religion leader.
The major events in his life experience were: he went to Tibet study power of Buddha at 16(1372) when he studied xianmijiaofa, following many learned monks; he got the degree at 25 and began to impart the Buddhism at 29 and formed his own thoughts while writing books at 40. In 1406, he held a large meeting to expand the influence of Yellow Sect at the first day of the first lunar month at Jokhang.
After that, supported by Pazu, he and his disciples established Ganden Monastery in the Wangbori Mountain. It is in this monastery that he settled down and continued to develop Gelug. In 1419, Tsong Khapa passed away and his disciple, Jiazhaojie took over this monastery. After the management of 95 abbots, Ganden Monastery has been expanded into a grand architecture building.
At its peak, it covered the area of 150,000 square meters and the floor space is 77,500 square meters. The main structures in the monastery consist of chanting halls and chapels and 43 villages. Besides, there are 9 debating courtyards in accordance to the debating in the different season.
The Ganden Monastey is called one of the "Three Principal Monasteries” with Dreprung Monastery and Sera Monastery. The Dreprung Monastery and Sera Monastery are also must-see to the visitors.