Tashilhunpo Monastery

sights / Religious

Tashilhunpo Monastery information

Shigatse , China
admission Y55
Opening hours
9am-7pm summer, 10am-noon & 3.30-6pm winter
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The seat of the Panchen Lama and one of Tibetan culture's six great Gelugpa institutions (along with Drepung, Sera and Ganden monasteries in Lhasa; as well as Kumbum and Labrang in Qīnghǎi and Gānsù provinces, respectively). Built in 1447 by a nephew of Tsongkhapa, the monastery is the size of a small village, and lends itself to a half-day or more of exploration and discovery.

In addition to the mesmerising statue of Jampa (Maitreya) Buddha (at nearly 27m high it's the largest gilded statue in the world) in the Temple of the Maitreya, the monastery is famed for the opulent tombs of the fourth and 10th Panchen Lamas. The former saw 85kg of gold and masses of jewels used in its construction. Despite the spectacle, some travellers don't like the atmosphere at Tashilhunpo, conjecturing that some of the monks are in cahoots with the authorities.

A delightful hour-long kora starts at the southwest corner of the outer wall and quickly heads into the hills for open views over the monastery and city. The Potala-like structure to the east is the rebuilt Shigatse Dzong (fortress). It's currently empty but a museum/gallery is planned.