Tibetan monks at Sera monastery debating in the courtyard; Shutterstock ID 11988370; full: digital; gl: 65050; netsuite: poi; your: Barbara Di Castro

Shutterstock / Philip Date

Debating Courtyard


There is usually monk debating here on weekday afternoons from around 3pm to 5pm, which provides a welcome relief from peering at Buddhist iconography. You will hear it (with much clapping of hands to emphasise points) as you approach Sera Je. Foreign photographers circle the site like vultures at a sky burial.

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Nearby Lhasa attractions

1. Sera Je College

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This is the largest of Sera’s colleges, generally accessed from a western side entrance. It has a breathtaking main hall, hung with thangkas and lit by…

2. Main Assembly Hall

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The main assembly hall (Tsogchen) is the largest of Sera’s buildings and dates to 1710. The central hall is particularly impressive and is noted for its…

3. Sera Ngagpa College

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A Tantric college, Ngagpa is also the oldest structure at Sera. The main hall is dominated by a statue of Sakya Yeshe (wearing a black hat), behind the…

4. Hardong Kangtsang

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Hardong served as a residence for monks studying at Sera Je College. In the first inner chapel, look for a photo of Ekai Kawaguchi, the Japanese monk who…

5. Printing Press

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Before leaving the monastery it’s worth having a look at the printing blocks in this new hall. Photos are ¥10. Prints made on site are for sale (¥25 to …

6. Sand Mandalas

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A small building to the side of the printing press holds these three sand mandalas.

7. Kitchen

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This atmospheric monastery kitchen on the eastern side of the main assembly hall is worth a visit.

8. Sera Monastery

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About 5km north of Lhasa, Sera was founded in 1419 by a disciple of Tsongkhapa as one of Lhasa's two great Gelugpa monasteries. About 600 monks are now in…