Located on Wangbur Mountain, on the southern bank of Lhasa River in Tagtse County, 47 kilometers (29 miles) from Lhasa City, Ganden Monastery is one of the earliest and largest Buddhist monasteries in Tibet, and stands atop of the six famous temples of Gelugpa - a branch of Tibetan Buddhism. Standing at an altitude of 3,800 meters above sea level, Ganden Monastery is known as one of the 'Three Great Temples', together with the Sera Monastery and the Drepung Monastery, and it has been listed in the National Key Cultural Relic Preservation scheme in 1961. With the Buddha Painting Unfolding Festival, one of the grandest of Buddhist activities, it attracts thousands of visitors and disciples during this period every year.
In the early 15th century, Tsong Khapa initiated the Gelugpa as he found the previous disadvantages in religious orders and required a reformation of religion. Gelugpa, also known as the Yellow Hat sect, become the biggest sect in Tibetan Buddhism, which led Tsong Khapa to establish the Ganden Monastery. The whole temple consist of over 50 structures, of which the main halls in the temple are the Main Assembly Hall (or Coqen Hall), Zhacangs, Khangtsens, and Myicuns.
Coqen Hall, which is situated in the northern part of the whole complex, serves as the main assembly hall. With 43.8 meters wide and 44.7 meters long, this hall has three levels. The Sutra Hall, which could hold over3, 000 lamas simultaneously, runs through the middle of the first floor, with the three Buddha Halls branching from it. The statues of the Maitreya Buddha, the master Tsong Khapa and the initiator of Gelugpa locate inside the Buddha Halls. The other main halls, such as the Buddhist Guardian Hall, Mandala Hall, and other complexes, locate to the west of Coqen Hall, which was built during the early fifteenth century, from 1409 – 1416. It is said that one stone in the back wall was introduced from India.
Originally built in 1409, and added onto in 1720, the Tri Thok Khang is one of the earliest Buddha Halls in the Ganden Monastery, and once served as Tsong Khapa and other tripas' bedchamber.
The windows are ornately carved in the style of the Central Plains. Inside the hall, there are enshrined statues of the Sitatapatra and Manjushri Bodhisattva. It is said that it houses clothing of Tsong Khapa and other tripas once before, hence the name 'Clothing-Preserving Hall'.
Serdhung, the Holy Stupa Hall that was used by Tsong Khapa and other tripas', was built in 1419 and the following years by disciples of Tsong Khapa for Tsong Khapa when he was passed away in Tri Thok Khang. It also features a silver pagoda, there has been used over 900 taels of silver to surround the master's body. Later, the 13th Dalai Lama covered it with pure gold. Each time a tripa died, a silver pagoda would be built in their honor. 95 pagodas have been built until the liberation of Tibet.
This monastery has two Zhacang (or Tantric colleges) - Xaze and Jamze. With the area of nearly 1,000 square meters, both of these are capable of holding 1,500 worshipping lamas simultaneously. Besides, there are also 23 Khangtsens and 20 Myicuns, which serve as the monks' living areas. Nine Debating Courtyards are used to as places to debate the sutras every day, as well as perform Summons Ceremonies throughout the four seasons.
Moreover, this monastery also hold some rare and well preserved cultural relics, such as the armor of Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911) which is studded with jewels and engraved in four kinds of characters, exquisite tapestries from Jiangsu Province, sutra written in gold, a set of thangka painted with sixteen arhats and the four Heavenly Kings etc.
Admission Fee: CNY 45
Opening Hours: 09:00 to 16:00
Recommended Time for a Visit: Need to spend just 2 hours to visit, but as it is far away from the city, so it altogether needs 1 day
Bus Route: There are shuttle buses at the square of Jokhang Temple. The bus begins to run at 07:00 in the morning and return at 14:00 in the afternoon. The round-trip ticket is CNY 20