Drepung Monastery


Along with Sera and Ganden Monasteries, Drepung functioned as one of the three 'pillars of the Tibetan state', and it was purportedly the largest monastery in the world, with around 7000 resident monks at its peak. Drepung means 'rice heap', a reference to the white buildings dotting the hillside. The 1½-hour kora (pilgrim circuit) around the 15th-century monastery, 8km west of Lhasa, is among the highlights of a trip to the city.

The kings of Tsang and the Mongols savaged the place regularly; oddly, the Red Guards pretty much left it alone during the Cultural Revolution. With concerted rebuilding, Drepung once again resembles a monastic village and around 600 monks reside here. At lunchtime you can see the novices bringing in buckets of tsampa (roasted-barley flour) and yak-butter tea. In the afternoon you can often witness Tibetan-style religious debating (lots of hand slapping and gesticulating). The best way to visit the monastery is to follow the pilgrim groups or the yellow signs.

Nearby Nechung Monastery, a 10-minute walk downhill, was once the home of the Tibetan state oracle and is worth a visit for its blood-curdling murals.

Bus 25 (¥1) runs from Beijing Donglu to the foot of the Drepung hill, from where minivans (¥2) run up to the monastery. Most tourists take a taxi from the Barkhor area for around ¥60.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Lhasa attractions

1. Deyang College

0.03 MILES

The smallest of Drepung’s colleges, this one can safely be missed if you’ve had enough. The principal image in the main hall is Jampa. Upstairs are some…

2. Loseling College

0.04 MILES

Loseling is the largest of Drepung’s colleges, and studies here were devoted to logic. If you have time, pop into the small debating courtyard west of the…

3. Lamba Mitsang

0.06 MILES

This small and little-visited college is worth brief exploration if you want to get off the beaten path.

4. Gomang College

0.07 MILES

Gomang is the second-largest of Drepung’s colleges. The main hall has a whole row of images, including those of Jampa, Tsepame and the seventh Dalai Lama…

5. Jurche Mitsang

0.08 MILES

This small and little-visited college was once home to students from Inner Mongolia and is worth a brief look.

6. Lubum Kangtsang

0.08 MILES

This small and little-visited college is one of several used as a monastic residence and monks welcome visitors.

7. Ganden Palace

0.09 MILES

In 1530 the second Dalai Lama established the Ganden Podrang, the palace that was home to the subsequent Dalai Lamas until the fifth built the Potala. It…

8. Main Assembly Hall


The main assembly hall, or Tsogchen, is the principal structure in the Drepung complex and is the one chapel you must not miss. The hall is reached…