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Tibet Features
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The Palkhor Monastery
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 Gyantse, Tibet

Gyantse

Gyantse or Gyangtse is the fourth largest city in Tibet after Lhasa, Sigatse and Chamdo. It is situated in Gyangzê County and is 254 kms southwest of Lhasa.  It is located at an altitude of 3,977 metres above sea level.  Gyantse is in the fertile plain of the Nyang Chu valley on the Friendship Highway, which connects Kathmandu, Nepal to Lhasa, Tibet. It is strategically located on the ancient trade routes from the Chumbi Valley, Yatung and Sikkim, which met here. It was the sight in 1904 of a major battle between Tibetans and British troops under Colonel Younghusband as the British advanced on Lhasa. The town still has the feel of a frontier town, with horses and yaks on the main streets.

 

Gyantse History

Gyantse is often referred to as the "Hero City". It was a sight of a major battle between Tibetans and British troops. During the expedition of British Colonel Younghusband in 1904, the 500 soldiers of the Gyantse fort resisted in a siege of several weeks, before they were overcome by the superior equipment of the British. The town still has the feel of a frontier town, with horses and yaks on the main streets. It was nearly destroyed in 1954 and was largely emptied of people by the Chinese in 1959.

 

Gyantse Attractions

The main places of interest in Gyantse are Kumbum Stupa and Palkhor Monastery. The Kumbum stupa is only Nepalese-style stupa in Tibet and was an important centre of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. It is situated in the Palkhor Monastery which is one of its kind in Tibet.

 

Kumbum Stupa

Kumbum Stupa is one of the most distinctive temples in the world. It is an unusual architectural masterpiece with its nine levels rise in the manner of a step pyramid. Its construction started in 1418 and it was completed in 1427. It is designed in classic stupa or pagoda style. This amazing structure is 35 metres in height, octagonal in shape, has a 9 storey terraced exterior, 108 chapels, and superb murals (wall paintings). It raises over four symmetrical floors plus two upper floors and is capped with a gold dome. The four floors contain 108 chapels which the pilgrims visit from bottom to top in a clockwise fashion.

This visit ends in a group of four chapels at the top of the temple. These chapels are dedicated to various Buddhist deities. The word Kumbum literally means 10,000 images and according to its name Kumbum stupa contains 10,000 murals some of which are dates back to 15 century and still in tact.  These murals form a 3D hierarchy covering the entire spiritual path including all the tantras. These images include Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Vajras, Dharma Kings, Arhats, Disciples, great adepts of different orders in Tibetan Buddhist history, and outstanding figures in Tibetan history such as Songtsen Gampo and Trisong Detsen. It was an important centre of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism and still considered as one of the most outstanding and sacred places of Tibet.

 

The Palkhor Monastery

The Palkhor Monastery also called Palcho Monastery it is quite different from other monasteries of Tibet. Structured as a typical Tibetan Buddhism monastery it was built in 1418 and has remarkably remained intact and unscathed to this day. It lies about 230 kilometers south of Lhasa and 100 kms east of Shigatse at the foot of Dzong Hill. The most remarkable feature of this monastery is that it is the only monastery that  houses monks from different orders. The monks from the Gelugpa, Sakyapa and Kahdampa orders stay in this monastery with noticeable harmony. Although they once quarreled and fought, the different orders eventually discovered a way to get along with each other. As a result, its oblation, architecture style, deities enshrined and murals are very special. 
The Main Assembly Hall of Palkhor Monastery, Tshomchen, was built between the end of the 14th century and the beginning of the 15th century. It is a three-storey structure. The ground floor has a chanting hall with 48 columns that are ornamented with old silk "thangkas". It also houses an eight- meter high bronze statue of Maitreya Buddha, which is

gilded and made from 1.4 tons of bronze. On the second floor of monastery there are chapels belonging to “Bodhisattva Manjushri" and "Arhats" from the Ming dynasty. Among these the Arahat chapel is quiet popular throughout Tibet. The roof of monastery also holds chapels which preserve a collection of 15 "mandala" murals. These are three meters (ten feet) in diameter. There are also some other attractive features in monastery like the collection of  about 100 robes and costumes worn in Tibetan opera. These costumes were made of silk, embroidery and tapestry and belong to the era of Ming dynasty and the Qing dynasty.

 

The Palkhor Monastery is also popular for its tower, Palkhor Tower, also called the Ten Thousand Buddha Tower. It is the calling card of Palkhor Monastery and the most important building in this monastery. The tower houses about 100 family halls for worshipping Buddha, one over the other. It has 10,000 figures of Buddha in the Buddhist shrines, murals and family halls which provides it the name the Ten Thousand Buddha Tower.

Another significant feature of Palkhor Monastery is "Kumbum Stupa" which is considered the symbol of the monastery.  This pagoda style stupa  consists of hundreds of chapels in layers and houses about a

hundred thousand images of various Buddhist icons. In total, there are about 3,000 statues, so it is called "Myriad Buddhas Stupa" also. It was an important centre of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism and still considered as one of the most outstanding and sacred places of Tibet. This graceful structure is one of the most visited places in Tibet.  


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