Ganden Sumtseling Monastery the beautiful
What a spectacular view of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery
Dear students and friends,
One of the things I like most about China and Tibet are the incredible Buddhist monasteries that were established centuries ago by the Emperors of China. One of the most beautiful, which I hope to visit one day, is Ganden Sumtseling Monastery in Yunnan province, China. Ganden Sumtseling (or Little Potala) was established by the Great Fifth Dalai Lama in the 17th century and was fully patronized by the Qing Dynasty Emperor Kangxi, who was in power at that time. Emperor Kangxi visited the monastery during the constructions to make sure it was completed. This was very unusual for an Emperor to personally visit. He also funded the construction of this great monastery.
Tibetan Lamas have enjoyed a good relationship with the Chinese Emperors for hundreds of years, and this harmony brought much benefit to the people through the establishment of great monasteries such as Sumtseling Monastery… and for the continued growth of Dharma in Tibet and China during the last few centuries. My favorite part of this beautiful Sumtseling Monastery is the special chapel dedicated to Lord Manjushri. The Manjushri statue is beautiful. I hope to recreate this chapel to Manjushri in Kechara Forest Retreat one day soon.
I thought it would be nice to share with everyone a little bit about the history of this monastery, and the beautiful pictures of the monastery and its breathtaking surroundings. Take a look and if you have visited this monastery in the past, do share your experiences with us. The photographs I’ve blogged here are stunning to say the least-do enjoy and be blessed to view them. This should be on everyone’s bucket list to visit at least once in your life either for cultural or spiritual or both reasons. I will get myself over there one of these days for sure.
Ganden Sumtseling Monastery
Ganden Sumtseling or Songzanlin or Guihua Monastery is also known as “Little Potala Palace”. Sumtseling Monastery is located just outside the city of Zhongdian (later renamed to Shangri-la in 2001). It is the largest Buddhist monastery in Yunnan province. Established by the Great Fifth Dalai Lama in 1679, the monastery was built during the rule of Qing Dynasty Emperor Kangxi, who fully patronized the development of the monastery. One of the most special features of the monastery is its blending of Tibetan and Chinese-style architecture.
Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is famed for its apolitical stance, and one of the most well known accounts of such a stance was when the monastery allowed the communist general He Long to pass through this area in one of his campaigns. However in 1959, like many other monasteries, Ganden Sumtseling was destroyed by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) during its invasion of Tibet. Since 1981, the situation of the monastery has changed and many of its structures and buildings have been restored to their previous glory.
At the peak of its past spiritual influence, Ganden Sumtseling Monastery was known to have been home to more than 2,000 monks! Today, it houses 700 monks in 200 associated houses.
The monastery is built 3,400 meters above sea level, making the temperature of the area relatively low all year round. Because of the high altitude, many visitors are advised to rest for a day in town to get acclimatized. The local authorities are promoting Shangri-la as a tourist destination so there are many lodging facilities in the city for visitors. Today, although the monastery is still an extremely holy place, it is also packed with tourists especially in spring and summer.
View of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery from afar
Ganden Sumtseling Monastery
(Click to enlarge image)
The entrance of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery
A painting of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery on the wall of the entrance gate
Front view of the main assembly hall. Many historical treasures are preserved in the monastery, such as Buddhist scriptures written on palm leaves that were used by the Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas of the past
Another view of the main assembly hall of Sumtseling Monastery
A large Lama Tsongkhapa statue in the main gompa (Main Prayer Hall)
Also in the main gompa is a statue of the 5th Dalai Lama, who founded the monastery in the 17th Century. Yak butter flower sculptures, which are offerings made by locals during the cold winter months, adorn the various altars.
The road from the monastery’s entrance leads to the main assembly hall and protector chapels. Climbing up the 146 steps is no easy feat especially for visitors who are not acclimatized to the environment
The main hall of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery, where more than 1,500 monks can gather to chant and meditate in unison
The altar in one of the many prayer halls in the monastery
Manjushri chapel (left) and Dorje Shugden chapel (right) in Chatreng Khangtsen
The magnificent Manjushri statue in the chapel
Close-up of Manjushri
Dorje Shugden Chapels in Ganden Sumtseling Monastery
Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is made up of several Khangtsens. Khangtsens are similar to fraternity houses, and monks that come to live in the monastery are placed in Khangtsens based on the region they originate from in Tibet.
The existence of these Khangtsens is purely for convenience as people from different parts of Tibet speak different dialects and have different cultures. This is also why many Khangtsens have their own prayer halls and protector chapels, as the monks rely on different Dharma Protectors based on cultural differences.
Ganden Sumtseling Monastery has several Khangtsens that rely on Dorje Shugden as their main Dharma Protector, the two largest being Yang Tang and Chatreng Khangtsen. The monks of Sumtseling are free to practice any Dharma Protector they choose as the local authorities demand mutual respect and tolerance, in order to avoid unrest within the community. Below are pictures of several Dharma Protector Chapels (Tenkhang) from the various Khangtsens in Sumtseling.
A Dorje Shugden thangka in the monastery’s main protector chapel
An image of the Panglung oracle in trance of Dorje Shugden on the monastery altar
A sword bent by the oracle of Dorje Shugden in trance, kept in the main protector chapel
The oracular costumes of Kache Marpo and Namkar Barzin in the main protector chapel, Za Lu Ju chapel
Dorje Shugden’s five families in Yang Tang Khangtsen’s first protector chapel
Yang Tang Khangtsen’s protector chapel is famous for its hundreds of Dorje Shugden statues
The entrance of Yang Tang Khangtsen’s second protector chapel
A beautiful Dorje Shugden statue and Ganze murals adorn the walls of Yang Tang Khangtsen’s second protector chapel
The Ganze is an offering of weapons and implements to the protector. It symbolizes fighting our negative karma and clearing obstacles that inhibit our spiritual growth. Symbolic offerings such as these are very rare and only found in places where the people have great faith in the protector.
Chatreng Khangtsen’s protector chapel to Dorje Shugden. Dorje Shugden is widespread for four hundred years in Tibet
Close-up image of Dorje Shugden in Chatreng Khangtsen’s protector chapel
The face of this Dorje Shugden statue in Dong Wang Khangtsen is covered according to Tibetan tradition
Another Dorje Shugden statue in one of the protector chapels in Sumtseling Monastery
An antique Dorje Shugden thangka in one of Sumtseling’s protector chapels
Amazing Buddhist Art
Beautiful murals decorate the main hall of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery. The monastery preserves ancient treasures of historical significance including scriptures written on palm leaves, gold-covered sculptures of Buddha Shakyamuni, and colorful murals painted by renowned Lamas depicting the life of the Buddha and many other Buddhist deities.
Breathtaking Architecture and Scenery
The main temple complex of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery was built in accordance with Tibetan traditional style lines. Atop the main building is a gilded copper roof, built to mirror the Potala Palace in Lhasa. It is for this reason that Sumtseling received its name “Little Potala Palace”. The other buildings that surround the main monastery building are Han Chinese style.
A detailed map of Ganden Sumtseling Monastery
Click to enlarge image
Click to enlarge image
Click to enlarge image
The Gedong Festival
The annual Gedong festival is held in Ganden Sumtseling Monastery on 29 November. Devotees gather to engage in a day of prayer and also to witness the religious mask dances known as “Cham Dance”, performed by the monks of the monastery. During this yearly event, the performing monks wear colorful costumes depicting deities, ghosts and animals.
Monks dressed in colorful costumes for the Cham Dance
Thousands attend this annual event
For more articles about Dorje Shugden, click here: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/category/dorje-shugden
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