Located in the quiet piedmont area of the Shannan Region, the Samye Monastery is the first temple to be built in Tibet and the first complete with the three Buddhist jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. With these unique features, this splendid temple has become an attraction for visitors from near and far.
The Sakya Monastery is the ancestral temple of Sakyapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It was built in the 6th year (1073) of the Xining reign of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) by Khon Konchog Gyalpo, the founder of Sakyapa sect of Lamaism. Sakya, meaning "Grey Soil" in Tibetan since the soil surrounding it is gray; it is the central monastery of Sakyapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. In the Yuan Dynasty, the fifth Sakya Throne Holder, Drogon Chogyal Phakpa, known as Phakpa, was appointed as the National Priest by Yuan Emperor Shizu. He took charge of the Buddhist and executive affairs of Tibet and initiated the history of monk's reign in Tibet. In the 2nd year (1265) of the Zhiyuan reign of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), Phakpa returned to the Sakya Monastery. Three years later, with the subsidy of Yuan government, the Sakya Monastery commanded a great number of Han, Mongolian and Tibetan craftsmen to rebuild the Sakya Monastery. It became the political center of Tibet at that time. At the end of the Yuan Dynasty, the Sakya Monastery's position was replaced by Kagyu sect. Sakyapa sect only retained its religious and political power in Sakya region. As a result, the Sakya Monastery gradually declined and fell into disuse.
The Zhongqu River runs through the temple and divides it into the southern temple and the northern temple. The northern temple has been mostly deserted and the southern temple still remains. Its walls were painted in red, white and grey strips, which represent Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani respectively. Therefore, the Sakya Monastery is also called Colored Temple and Sakyapa sect is also called Colored School. The northern temple looks like a castle with walls as high as 13 meters surrounding it. It is a square with an area of 15,000 square meters. In the middle of the eastern side is a gate, on the top of which there is a watchtower. On the west, north and south, there is also a watchtower respectively. On the four corners of the wall, there are four turrets. Outside the castle is a lower earthen castle and outside further is the deep trench. Walls, watchtowers, turrets; earthen castle and trench form the defensive system of the castle, which was almost formidable at that time.
The main architectures inside the castle are the Dajing Hall, the Buddhism Hall and the hall where the Sakya archbishop lived. They all preserve the style of Yuan architectures. The Dajing Hall is in the center of the temple and occupies an area of 5,700 square meters. The columns and walls inside it are all painted dark red. There are 40 columns, each 10 meters high. On the western, northern and southern sides are fresco corridors while on the eastern side is the hall where Sakyapa Masters are enshrined. To the north of Dajing Hall is the hall for Sakyapa archbishop, with monks' dorms on its north and back.
On the shelves of the Dajing Hall and the Buddhism Hall are displayed various hand-written Buddhist scriptures and books of Ming and Qing dynasties. It has the largest number of books among all the temples in Tibet. These scriptures and books are precious materials for research into the Tibetan history.
The Samye Monastery is located at the foot of Mount Haibu Rishen, north of the Yarlung Tsangpo River. You can travel there by a regular bus from Lhasa to Samye Ferry and cross the river by boat or bridge. Then you can take the special monastery bus to get there. The mountain top is also the best place to photograph a panoramic view of the monastery.
For dining and accommodation, the monastery includes a restaurant and guest house. Alternatively there are other restaurants outside the Eastern Gate and guest houses in the nearby village. When visiting the monastery, bring a flashlight as it is quite dark in the halls.
for a Visit
|Two to three hours|