The Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, located in Shigatse, Tibet, is a reflection of Chinese culture and religion that has influenced people around the world. Visitors of the monastery are mostly Buddhist followers who want to pay honor and tribute to the sacred place. Others are just plain curious about the lifestyle and teachings of Buddhism. These ones visit the place to catch a glimpse of the rich and influential Buddhist tradition.
Tashi Lhunpo Monastery is the seat of Panchen Lamas – the lineage of religious officials next to the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama is the highest-ranking tulku lineage in the Gelugpa Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy. Tulku, on the other hand, is the term for those who chose to be renewed or reborn to educate others. This makes the Panchen Lamas the next line of high-ranking religious Buddhist officials after the Dalai Lama.
Tashi Lhunpo Monastery has been a home for the Panchen Lamas who religiously practiced Buddhism since its construction in 1447 with the help from the first Dalai Lama Genden Zhuba from the Yellow Hat Sect. Expansions followed through during the time of the fourth Panchen Lama Lobsang Gyalsten. The monastery underwent several extensions under different Panchen Lamas who supervised the works.
Today, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery stands 3,800 meters above sea level and offers tourists’ different halls, temples, gallery, courtyard, and chapels.
One distinct feature of the monastery is the Maitreya Temple. It’s located on the western part of the monastery’s highest building. The Ninth Panchen Lama ordered its construction in to accommodate the 86 foot statue of the Maitreya Buddha that contains 614 lbs of gold, 330,000 lbs of copper. Its wooden frame is made of brass courtesy of Tibetan and Nepalese artisans.
Other places to see in Tashi Lhunpo Monastery are:
· The Panchen Lama’s Palace
· Main Chanting Hall
· Sutra Hall
· Gyeni Chanting Hall
· The Roof Chapels
· Ngang College
· The Great Gallery
· The Great Courtyard
The good time to visit the monastery is during Festival Days when the place transforms into colorful and energetic scenery that promotes the rich Chinese history, culture, and religion.