Tsodzong Monastery

Eastern Tibet

The monastery (Fortress on the Lake) is a small Nyingmapa chapel tucked into the forest on a tiny islet off the shore of Draksum-tso. Associated with the 8th-century king Trisong Detsen, it is also the 14th-century birthplace of Sangye Lingpa, a terton. Tertons are reincarnations of Guru Rinpoche's disciples and are tasked with recovering the great spiritual leader's buried relics and texts. The monastery and surrounding kora are filled with holy relics and attract numerous pilgrims.

The main chapel has statues of Sangye Lingpa, Guru Rinpoche, Sakyamuni, Chenresig (Avalokiteshvara) and Kongtsun Demo, a local protector, on horseback. The monastery statues were actually shot and then burned by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, before being restored by the famous local lama Dudjom Rinpoche and his son Chuni Rinpoche (now resident at Lamaling Monastery). In the corner is a stone hoofprint of Gesar of Ling’s horse. You may see Tibetans rubbing this on their backs to take advantage of its healing powers.

The short kora around the island is filled with relics and natural objects associated with Gesar, Guru Rinpoche and Sangye Lingpa (you'll need the old monk caretaker to help point these all out). On the north side look for an oriental white oak on whose leaves appear the outline of snakes and other animals of the zodiac. As with the hoofprint in the monastery, the likeness to real animals may not strike you as particularly close, but to devout pilgrims in the right visionary frame of mind, it is clear that the outer world is revealing the mythic.

After you have completed the kora head across the small pier to feed tsampa (roasted-barley flour) to the fish. Tibetans will do this when someone they love is ill or suffering.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Eastern Tibet attractions

1. Dáqièlā Sightseeing Platform

0.24 MILES

Around 500m back to the west from the Mid-lake Island Tourist Service Centre (湖心岛旅游服务中心, Húxīndǎo Lǚyóu Fúwù Zhōngxīn), climb a small hill to a viewing…

2. Draksum-tso

3.42 MILES

Eastern Tibet is blessed with many beautiful lakes but this is arguably the best of the lot. Draksum-tso, and particularly its monastery island, is a…

3. Shuba Ancient Fort

16.6 MILES

These reconstructed towers, known as the Shuba Ancient Fort, stand off the old highway 7km east of Bahel. They are said to date from the reign of Songtsen…

4. Kading Valley Scenic Area

22.96 MILES

This small forested park contains a 200m-high waterfall. It's a beautiful, fresh area for an hour-long break. Note that, while the Chinese have built…