Ganden Monastery Review
If you have time for only one side trip from Lhasa, this rambling monastery with ocher-colored walls is your best bet. It was stablished in 1409 by Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelugpa sect, and its abbot is chosen on merit rather than heredity. Of the six great Gelugpa monasteries, Ganden was the most seriously damaged by Chinese during the Cultural Revolution. Since the early 1980s Tibetans have put tremendous effort into rebuilding the complex; some 300 monks are now in residence. Pilgrims come daily from Lhasa to pay homage to the sacred sites and religious relics.
The monastery comprises eight major buildings. The most impressive structure is the Gold Tomb of Tsongkhapa (Serdhung Lhakhang) in the heart of the complex, easily recognized by the recently built white chorten, or small shrine, standing before the red building. On the second floor is the chapel of Yangchen Khang, with the new golden chorten of Tsongkhapa. The original (1629), made of silver, later gilded, was the most sacred object in the land. In 1959 the Chinese destroyed it, although brave monks saved some of the holy relics of Tsongkhapa, which are now inside the new gold-covered chorten. Be careful walking around this shrine: the buttery wax on the floor is thick and slippery.
A path that circumambulates the monastery starts from the parking lot. From the path, which leads to the spot where Tsongkhapa was cremated in 1419, you'll be treated to breathtaking views of the Lhasa River Valley. You'll need about an hour to complete the circuit. If a visit here is not included in your tour, or if you want to catch public transport with your guide, buses (Y20 round-trip) to Ganden leave from Barkhor Square in front of Jokhang Temple every morning at 6:30, returning to Lhasa at 3 pm. The beautiful 90-minute ride from Lhasa will give you a glimpse of life in rural Tibet.
- Address: 36 km (22 mi) southeast of Lhasa on main Tibet-Sichuan Hwy., 856750
- Cost: Y45
- Hours: Daily 9--4
- Location: Lhasa
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