The atmospheric blood-red Korjak Monastery (3790m) has been an important centre for the Sakya order since it was founded by Rinchen Zangpo in 996 as the first monastery of Buddhism's second diffusion in Tibet. It escaped the worst excesses of the Cultural Revolution and the damage sustained has since been repaired. It's an easy stop if heading up from Nepal, and is worth the 20km drive south of Purang.
The atmospheric main hall is entered via an ancient wooden door with particularly fine carvings. The hall itself is presided over by a figure of Jampa (Maitreya). The lhakhang to the left features paintings from the earliest days of the monastery, while the protector chapel to the right has a huge stuffed snake lurking in the corner shadows. The puppet-like figure hanging from the main chapel's pillar is the Sakya protector Jala.
The lovely eight-pillared Jokhang building adjoining the main hall is dominated by the Rigsum Gonpo trinity of Chenresig (Avalokiteshvara), Jampelyang (Manjushri) and Chana Dorje (Vajrapani). To the right of these standing statues is a small rangjung (naturally arising) speaking Tara. The revered 2ft-high statue once warned the monastery’s abbot how to prevent flooding of the local area. During the Cultural Revolution the statue was buried for safekeeping.
When you finish inside do a final kora around the compound to see the unusual 'om mani padme hum' (‘hail to the jewel in the lotus’) mantra painted on the back wall.
The monastery is 130km from Darchen or about 107km from Chiu village on Lake Manasarovar. The drive south from Lake Manasarovar is one of the most scenic in western Tibet and it’s easy to visit as a day trip. Travelling north from Nepal, Korjak is the first large village over the border in Tibet.