Summer Palace of the Panchen Lamas

Palace in Shigatse

Though it ranks far below Tashilhunpo, if you have extra time in Shigatse, pay a visit to this walled palace complex at the southwestern end of town. The original palace was built in 1844 by the seventh Panchen Lama, Tenpei Nyima, and later destroyed; the current complex was built in 1955 by the 10th Panchen Lama. It's known in Tibetan as the Dechen Kalzang Podrang.

The bottom hall has a pair of massive murals, one of which depicts the 18 levels of Buddhist hell with sadistic ingenuity, complete with humans being boiled, dismembered, speared, hacked and disembowelled.

On the ground floor (opposite the Panchen Lama’s stuffed dog) are two rooms, which an attendant monk might open for you. The first room is a gönkhang (protector chapel) that features Nyeser Chöda Chenpo, the protector of Tashilhunpo. The second room contains images of the 10th Panchen Lama’s two yunze (spiritual tutors).

Walk up the grand staircase to the 2nd floor where you will find the 10th Panchen Lama’s sitting rooms, one of which contains his desk and telephones. This floor also holds his audience chamber. Each room contains a shuegje (throne), to which pilgrims will bow. The attendant monk may even reveal one of the Panchen Lama’s shoes, and proceed to bless you by rubbing the holy shoe on the back of your neck and head.

The palace is about 1km south of Tashilhunpo. Follow the road to the end and turn right into the gated compound. Buy tickets at the gate, then walk or drive further into the compound's main gate.