Dynamited by Red Guards and with ruins still visible in the green fields of the Pak-chu Valley, the sprawling monastic complex of Taklung is around 120km north of Lhasa. Rebuilding continues but not on the scale of other, more spiritually important, monasteries in the area.
Taklung was founded in 1180 by Tangpa Tashipel as the seat of the Taklung school of the Kagyupa order. At one time it may have housed some 7000 monks (it currently has 115) but was eventually eclipsed in importance and grandeur by its former branch, the Riwoche Tsuglhakhang in Eastern Tibet.
Taklung's most important structure was its Tsuglhakhang (Grand Temple), also known as the Red Palace. The building was reduced to rubble but its impressively thick stone walls remain.
To the south of the Tsuglhakhang is the main assembly hall, the Targyeling Lhakhang. Look out for the destroyed set of three chörtens behind the building, one of which contained the remains of the monastery’s founder.
To the west in the main monastery building, the Choning (Tsenyi) Lhakhang is used as a debating hall and has a statue of the bearded Tashipel to the right. The fine cham masks are traditionally worn during a festival on the ninth to eleventh days of the fourth month during Saga Dawa (the festival clothes are in a metal box in the corner), and in the weeks leading up the festival it is sometimes possible to see monks practising the elaborate cham dances. Snarling stuffed wolves hang from the ceiling of the protector chapel next door.
Just behind here is the Jagji Lhakhang. In the small chapel upstairs look for a thankgka depicting a historic representation of Taklung before the destruction of the Cultural Revolution.
Taklung Monastery is 60km north of Lhundrub, over the 4845m Chak-la. It's a 3km detour west of the main road.