Monastery sights in Tibet
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The southern section of the Sakya Monastery, built in 1268, is a massive fortress-like compound, with high defensive walls. Inside, the dimly lit assembly hall exudes a sanctity few others can rival. The northern section of the monastery, on the other side of the Trum-chu (Trum River) has been mostly reduced to picturesque ruins, though restoration work is ongoing and it's worth some exploration.
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…
The high red-walled compound of this monastery, founded in 1418, once encircled 15 monasteries from three different orders of Tibetan Buddhism. The surviving assembly hall (straight ahead as you enter the compound) is worth a lingering visit for the fine murals, statues and butter-lamp-lit atmosphere. Just beside the assembly hall is the Gyantse Kumbum.