Drepung Monastery, Lhasa

Drepung Monastery

Drepung Monastery              Bookmark and Share

The Drepung Monastery is situated at the foot of the Mountain Gambo Utse, which is 5 kilometers from the western suburb of Lhasa. Known as the most important monastery of Gelugpa in Tibetan Buddhism, it is also one of the 'Three Great Monasteries', along with the Ganden Monastery and the Sera Monastery. The Monastery covers a total area of 250,000 square meters, which allows it to hold 7,700 monks, 141 fazendas and 540 pastures in its heyday. Those numbers contributes its reputation as the largest-scale monastery among the same kind. In the Tibetan language, 'Drepung Monastery' means Monastery of Collecting-Rice. The name comes form the fact that it appears like a heap of rice if you see it from afar.It is a rater complex question to explain the hierarchical organization. Coqen, Zhacang, Kamcun, and Myicun form the main branches. Among the three, Coqen lies in the highest. Then Zhacang belongs to it, and Kamcun is under Zhacang. And finally, Myicun subordinates to Zhacang. The rules for monks belonging to different branches are quite strict. For instance, monks form one kind of Zhacangs cannot interblend with another branch of Zhacang.

Monks at Drepung Monastery

Monks at Drepung Monastery

Traveller's Review

Built in 1416, Drepung Monastery is the largest monastery in Tibet, and at its peak was the largest monastery in the world. Like the other monasteries in Lhasa, it is from the Gelug sect, which most Tibetans now belong to. What makes a visit to Drepung special, I think, is that it is set in a mountainous setting, just outside of town, and most of the pilgrims that visit here are from the countryside, rather than from the city of Lhasa. Combined with the small dwellings in the rocks where people still live, monks raising sheep, and chickens and cats running around, it makes for a holistic experience.

The first through fifth Dalai Lamas lived in the Drepung Monastery, before the fifth Dalai Lama relocated to the Potala Palace. You will find many Tibetan villagers here, as well as many monks, though far fewer than at their peak of 10,000. Also find a collection of Buddhas, the thrones from the first five Dalai Lamas, and visit the monks' kitchen, instruction rooms, etc. This place feels much more like what you might imagine a Tibetan monastery would feel like than Jokhang Temple, which is in the middle of the city.

It is rewarding to visit with a guide, who can share with you the history and legends associated with this historical place, of which there are many. Unlike the Potala Palace, Summer Palace, and Jokhang Temple, you are allowed to take photos inside here for about 20Y per room. It is respectful not to take photos, however, inside the monastery. Make sure to wear appropriate dress - long sleeves, long pants, dark colors.