Dating back to the 7th-century reign of Songtsen Gampo, Tradruk is one of the earliest Buddhist temples in Tibet. It was founded at the same time as Lhasa's Jokhang and Ramoche to act as one of Tibet’s demoness-subduing temples (Tradruk pins down the demoness’s left shoulder). In order to build the monastery here, Songtsen Gampo had first to take the form of a hawk (tra) in order to overcome a local dragon (druk), a miracle that is commemorated in the monastery’s name.
Tradruk was significantly enlarged in the 14th century and again under the auspices of the fifth and seventh Dalai Lamas. The monastery was badly desecrated by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution.
The entrance of the monastery opens into a courtyard area ringed by cloisters. The building to the rear of the courtyard has a ground plan similar to that of the Jokhang, and shares the same Tibetan name, Tsuglhakhang. Like the Jokhang, there is both an outer and inner kora path.
The principal chapel, to the rear centre, holds a statue of a speaking white Tara known as Drölma Sheshema (under a parasol), in front of the reconstructed remains of five stone Dhyani Buddhas. The statue of Jampelyang (Manjushri) in the corner allegedly swam to the monastery during a flood.
To the left is the Choegyel Lhakhang, with statues of Songtsen Gampo and his wives and ministers, next to original fragments of stone statuary from next door's stone Dhyani Buddhas.
The Tuje Lhakhang to the right has statues of Chenresig, Jampelyang and Chana Dorje, who form the Tibetan trinity known as the Rigsum Gonpo. The stove to the right is said to have belonged to Princess Wencheng (Wencheng Konjo), the Chinese consort of Songtsen Gampo.
Upstairs and to the rear is a central chapel containing a famous 400-year-old thangka of Chenresig (known as Padmapani) made up of 29,000 pearls, as well as an ancient applique thangka depicting Sakyamuni, said to have been presented by Princess Wencheng to Songtsen Gompa. A protector chapel to the side has an unusual statue of the Hindu god Brahma.
Tradruk is around 7km south of the centre of Tsetang, accessible by local bus 2.