Drepung Monastery

Written by ivana Updated Jul. 7, 2021

Drepung Monastery lies in the west of Lhasa under Mount Gambo Utse, clustered all around 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).


Shoton Festival

The Shoton Festival (雪顿节) is held in the late sixth month to the early seventh month of the Tibetan calendar. In Tibetan, Sho means yogurt and ton means feast, so the festival is a day for eating yogurt. At the Shoton Festival, a large Thangka (唐卡) on which a big Buddha will be displayed on the slope of the mountain.

At that day, hundreds of thousands of people gather there to worship the big Buddha Thangka. On the second day of the 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 until the end of the festival.

Seeing the Landscape of Drepung Monastery

The buildings in Tibet have their feature. Nearly all the buildings have white walls made of bricks and red roofs. With the cloud fluttering around, every angle can be picturesque to the visitors. The monastery is an important component in Tibet. Some monasteries are not allowed to take photos but visitors can absorb the serene atmosphere and 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 from the strange disease.


The monastery was founded in 1416 by a disciple of Tsong Khapa, Yangjiangque Jie. Yangjiangque Jie was born into 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 the sutra.

At last, he became well-known for his mastery of Xianzhong, part of the esoteric sect. 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 trip (a Buddhist spiritual leader). There are 23 trips 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 for four generations. The 2nd Dalai Lama built a palace (named Gedanpozhang) inside where he took over the administrative power of Tibet.

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