All travel in Tibet has to be done as part of a tour. That means that unless you’re going on a trekking tour, you will be visiting a lot of monasteries. And even on a trekking tour, you’ll likely still visit a lot of monasteries! I have just had this short article on the monasteries of Tibet published. Clearly it’s not exhaustive because I spent just ten days in the enormous region. But I got a good introduction to the architecture and culture of Tibet this way. My favourite by far was the remote Sakya Monastery, which is about 1000 years old and houses over 80,000 Tibetan Buddhist scrolls in its library. It was a rare example of a monastery that was relatively untouched by the Cultural Revolution.
Here’s an extract from that article. See the original for more.
“One of the main attractions of visiting Tibet is touring the region’s beautiful monasteries. While many thousand were destroyed during China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, and countless priceless artefacts lost, a number did survive. Plus, many more have been restored to some degree since. Each monastery is unique in its history and cultural position, and is different from the last. So even though you may be visiting two or even three monasteries per day on your tour of Tibet, you will discover new things each time.
Here are the monasteries you will visit on a ten day trip from Lhasa to Everest Base Camp, stopping in Gyantse, Shigatse and Shakya on the way.
The Jhokang, in the centre of Lhasa’s old Tibetan town, is the holiest temple in Tibet. The oldest parts of the building date back from the year 652, but it was built over many centuries. Its architectural style was influenced by Indian and Nepali styles, as well as Tibetan. Inside you can see lots of Buddhist statues and mandalas, but perhaps the most attractive feature is the view from the flat rooftop. You can look down on Barkhor Square below, where Tibetan devotees flock to the temple, and look across to the Potala Palace and the hills in the distance.”
Top image: Sakya Monastery.