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Drepung Monastery

Known as the most important monastery of Gelugpa in Tibetan Buddhism, Drepung Monastery, which is situated at the foot of the Mountain Gambo Utse (5 kilometers from the western suburb of Lhasa), is considered one of the 'Three Great Monasteries' (the other two are the Ganden Monastery and the Sera Monastery) in Tibet.

This monestary was established in 1416 by Tsong Khapa's disciple Jamyang Qoigyi, who was versed in both Esoteric and Exotoric Buddhism and became the first Kampo there. He built this temple with the support of plutocrats, and this temple developed as the richest monastery of Gelugpa and became the mother temple of Dalai Lamas. The third Dalai was welcomed as the first Living Buddha into the monastery in 1546. During the preaching in Qinghai Province, he was dignified with the title 'the third Dalai Lama' by the Mongolia's king. Drepung Monastery is also the place that the second, third, and the fourth Dalai Lama held the Sitting-in-Bed Ceremony, as well as the residence of the fifth Dalai before his nomination by the government of the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911).

With an area of 250,000 square meters, Drepung Monastery has 7,700 monks in total and possessed 141 fazendas and 540 pastures in its heyday. It is the largest-scale monastery among the ones of the same kind. Seen from afar, the appearance of this monastery looks like a heap of rice for its grand, white construction, hence the name 'Drepung Monastery'. “Drepung” in Tibetan language means Collecting-Rice.

The organizational hierarchy of the monastery is rather complex, of which the main branches consist of Coqen, Zhacang, Kamcun, and Myicun. Coqen is in the highest position, while the Myicun is in the lowest position. Monks belonging to respective Zhacangs cannot interblend with each other. The educational system in Zhacangs is set up such that, every year there are eight chances to study the sutra collectively, with each time spanning from half a month to a month.
Monks will be tested before the Kampo by reciting sutras and debating, and they will receive degrees of different levels based on their performance.

In the monastery, there are 4 Zhacangs, functioning as the sutra-learning places and the subordinate organization. Loseling Zhacang is the largest with the most lamas. The Ngaba Zhacang focus on the Exotoric Buddhism, while the Loseling, Gomang, and Deyang Zhacang focus on the Esoteric Buddhism. Besides, near Zhacang, there are several courtyards in the dense forests on the grounds of the monastery which are used for monks to debate on the sutras. After the debating period, the winner will obtain the qualification to attend the test for the senior degree of Geshi.

The ground of the monastery is organized on the caves and temples for Jamyang Qoigyi, together with two magnificent white pagodas. The buildings of the monastery are centered on these pagodas, The major buildings are Ganden Potrang, Coqen Hall, the four Zhacangs (or Tantric colleges), and Kamcuns.

Located in the southwest corner of the monastery, Ganden Potrang, was built under the supervision of the second Dalai Lama Gendun Gyaco around the year of 1530. And later it became the residence of the following 2nd,3rd,4th,5th Dalai Lamas. As the 5th Dalai Lama moved to the Potala Palace, here was served as the meeting place for the local regime for both politics and religion.

Located in the center of the monastery, here stands the grand Coqen Hall. In front of the hall, there is a square in area of 1,850 square meters. While stepping on the wide stone stairs, visitors will see the grand Entrance Hall. With an area of 1,850 square meters, the grand Sutra Hall is supported by 183 pillars. In the hall, on the walls, there are fine and vivid statues of Buddha. The second story houses collections of precious sutras, such as a set of Gangyur Tripitaka written in gold powder, and woodcarving sutras of the Qing Dynasty etc. on the third story, there is enshrined a huge bronze statues of Qamba Buddha, which is said to be the future appearance of the Qamba Buddha in his 8th year.

There are many cultural relics in Drepung Monastery, such as Statues of Manjushri Bodhisattva, Sitatapatra on the first storey of the Coqen Hall, rare sutras on the second storey and Jamyang Qoigyi's conch shell given by Tsong Khapa on the third one. Besides, the statues of Tsong Khapa, Kwan-yin Bodhisattva, Manjushri Bodhisattva, Amitayus, and Jamyang Qoigyi in other sutra halls, as well as flowery murals on walls also add to the wonderment of this monastery.

Drepung Monastery Notes

Admission Fee:  CNY 55

Opening Hours:  09:00-17:00

Recommended Time for a Visit: Three hours

Transportation: The best way is to take a taxi which costs about CNY 20