Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), founder of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, was born in today's Huangzhong County where the Tar Monastery was founded.
The Ta'er Lamasery, a famous Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Qinghai Province, was recently renovated, restoring it to its former glory. Hoping to be the first worshippers to the lamasery after its renovation, pilgrims of different ethnic groups came from near and far. Some of them, in ethnic clothes and ornaments, carried abundant packages of offerings; some rotated a prayer wheel in their hands while chanting; and some lay flat or knelt on the ground, praying for the happiness and well-being of their families.
Standing in an imposing manner according to the gradient of the mountain, the Ta'er Lamasery is a wonderful architectural complex that embraces 9,300 structures, including scripture halls, Buddha halls, lamas' residences, and Buddhist pagodas. Built in 1622, in the center of the entire complex, the Great Hall of Gold Tiles is the core structure of the lamasery. The ridges of the hall's roof are decorated with auspicious objects such as treasure bottles, gold streamers, and gold deer. In the center of the hall is a silver pagoda built around a pipal tree; and a statue of Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Yellow Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, is placed in the pagoda. In the hall there also exists a collection of hundreds of works by Tsongkhapa and his disciples as well as hand-written copies of scriptures in Tibetan and Mongolian.
Temple and Scripture Hall Dajinwa Hall
Dajinwa Hall, in the center of the Ta’er Monastery, with mountains in the back and the front of it, is the main and most majestic hall of the Monastery. It covers the area of 456㎡ and is 84 meters in perimeter and more than 10 meters high. It was built in 1379 (Ming Dynasty)mainly by Tibetan tribes of Shenzhong, Qijia, Longben, Mina and Xina together with all the adherents of Qinghai.
The three-tier Dajinwa Hall has the combining style of Han and Tibetan. It was built by colored glaze bricks with beautiful designs. In 1711(Qing Dynasty), Erdenijiang, King of Qinghai Mongolian Shire, donated gold of 65 kilograms and silver of 600 kilograms to enlarge the building into 15-pillar one and pave the roof with gilded bronze piles. In 1740, Suonanduoji, King of Tibet Shire, donated silver of 1350 kilograms to repave the roof with some decorations. And in 1764 and 1816, it was redecorated again.
The hall is enshrined with Zongkapa silver dagoba on the top of which is a niche with Zongkapa golden statue in it. There are stones once stepped by Zongkapa in his childhood, Gangyur sutra and many valuable treasures like bronze statues, and mural inside the hall. The center platform in form of lotus is enshrined with many Buddha statues and displayed various kind of implements used in worship like golden lantern, Jingtailan (Cloisonné) vases and ivories. On the top of the front gate is a horizontal inscribed board presented by Emperor Qianlong of Qing Dynasty in 1794.
In front of the hall there is a flower pool inscribed with Devanagari and portraits of Buddha. A tree is growing flourishingly in the pool and said its leaves can heal ailments like fever. So many adherents kneel down and kowtow that the floor board have to be replaced for being worn out.
Thousands of MANI wheels in different size are installed surrounding the hall, in Maitreya Buddha Halls on each side of the hall, Wisdom Buddha Hall, Zongkapa Hall and the altar of Buddha wheel. OM MANI PADME HUM(incantation of Buddha) is inscribed on the MANI wheels containing Buddha sutras. The wheels should only be revolved in the left direction. It is said that one revolve is equivalent to reading a sutra. In addition, on the right side of Wisdom Buddha Hall and both side of 3rd Dalailama, there are three Buddha wheel pavilions. The wheels are revolved ceaselessly by the adherents.
These structures reflect the superb craftsmanship of the architects then. The three unique works of art in Ta'er Monastery refer to butter sculpture, appliques and murals. Butter sculptures are all kinds of Buddha figures, portraits, flowers and trees and pavilions made of the mixture of white butter mineral dye. Filled with cotton and wool in between, the appliques Here made of silk cuttings show the visitors a stereo sense.
Most of the murals in Ta'er Monastery are carved on the cloth. Murals: Its unique characteristic is the fine workmanship, reputed as "no stroke but fine, no place but excellent". Mural paintings are done direct on walls and beams, but in most cases on fabrics. A kind of stony mineral dye is used in painting to keep pictures fresh for hundreds of years. The Ta'er Monastery contains countless murals. There are numerous large-sized colorful and vivid mural paintings in the Great Temple of Golden Tiles, the Great Scripture Hall and the Small Scripture Hall. The pictures of the image of flying Bodhisattva clad in transparent fine gauze are the masterwork among the temple murals.
Butter sculptures: Several months ahead of the Spring Festival, artists get to mix pure white butter with stony mineral fuels of various colors, and sculpt them into mountains, rivers, flowers, plants, figurines, trees, elephants, white cranes, old folk, Buddha immortals, officials and and generals, halls, towers, pavilions, terraces, stories of religious life and mythologies. These sculptures, lifelike and in myriad forms and expressions, are excellent manual work. Appliques: They are made of colorful silk-fabric cuttings. These cuttings in the shape of Buddha, man, flower, plant, bird, wild animal, insect, fish etc. are sewn on a large silk fabric, in-between stuffed with wool, cotton or other woolly materials, to achieve three-dimensional effect. The oblong sheets or streamers of silk fabric with appliques of Buddha, scripture etc. hang from the ceilings or upon pillars all over the places in the Lamasery. They constitute a dazzling silk gallery. Artists of appliques pay particular attention to projecting the lines and contours of an individual figure. This fully demonstrates the artistic style and skill of Tibetan culture.
Ta'er Monastery is about 30 minutes drive from Xining. There are buses stopping at the Xining Gymnasium Parking Lot heading to Huangzhong, where the monastery is located. But foreign tourists are recommended to avoid the use of this kind of transportation for they are mainly designed for the local tourists who are familiar with the standard condition. More comfortable option is to hire a taxi for around 30 yuan.
The area close to the monastery is clustered with local restaurants and food stalls. You can well feed yourself there with the varieties of local flavors.
Opening Time: Open daily from 8:00am-5:00 pm.
Recommended time for a visit: 2.5 hours