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Tibet: Lhasa monasteries

Drepung, Sera and Norbulingka

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September 29th Lhasa, Tibet

After breakfast we were collected to drive through Lhasa to Drepung Monastery, our first port of call. This was going to be the highest we would walk to, as the colleges of Drepung are at 4000m.

Monasteries in Tibet
The great Gelugpa monasteries of Sera, Drepung and Ganden, known collectively as the densa chenmo sum, once operated like self contained worlds. Drepung alone, the largest of them, was home to 10,000 monks at the time of the Chinese takeover in 1951. Like other major Gelugpa institutions, Drepung operated less as a single unit than as an assembly of colleges, each with its own interests, resources and administration.
The colleges, known as tratsang or dratsang were (and still are) made up of kangtsang (residences). A monk joining a monastic college was assigned to a kangtsang according to the region in which he was born. For instance, 60% of monks at Drepung’s Loseling College were from Kham, while Gomang College was dominated by monks from Amdo and Mongolia. This gave the monastic colleges a distinct regional flavour and meant loyalties were generally grounded deeper in the colleges than in the monastery. At the head of a college was the khenpo (abbot), a position for one who had completed the highest degree of monastic studies. The successful applicant was chosen by the Dalai Lama. Beneath the abbot was a group of religious leaders who supervised prayer meetings and festivals, and a group of economic managers who controlled the various kangtsang estates and funds. There was a squad of huge monks known as dob-dobs, in charge of discipline and punishments. In the case of the larger colleges, estates and funds were often substantial. Loseling College had over 180 estates and 20,000 serfs who worked the land and paid taxes to the monastery. Monasteries were involved in many forms of trade. For the most part, holdings were not to support monks, who were often forced to do private business to sustain themselves, but to maintain the endless cycle of prayer meetings and festivals deemed necessary for the spiritual good of the nation.
Tibet has a large number of monks and lamas who play a major role in the lives of the Tibetan people, conducting religious ceremonies and taking care of the monasteries. Tibet has the largest number of monks in the world at almost 1/3 of the population. The costumes of Tibetan monks are a significant part of Tibetan culture. Clothing includes a waistcoat and dark red kasaya, twice the body's length, which they wrap obliquely about their shoulders. When monks pray, they wear a red cloak (dagang) made of wool. After the monks are promoted to Gexi (the highest academic degree of Tibetan Buddhism), their waistcoats are rimmed with satin borders, and they hang satin water bags about their waists, with a small bottle for mouth-rinsing. Monks responsible for blowing the suona horn and monastic bugle also wear them as ornaments. The costumes of Tibetan monks are usually made of crimson pulu. In daily life, a monk wears a shawl with the front and back decorated with yellow cloth, and a long skirt, and drapes another long shawl, approx 21⁄2 times the length of his height. When he attends a religious meeting he wears a cloak and special yellow cap sticking up high on the head, which resembles the shape of a rooster's comb. The costumes of monks varies among different sects eg some monks wear long, steeple-crowned hats with the brim folded and the front open. Robes are the most common costume of Tibetan monks. The basic robe consists of the following parts:
► dhonka, a wrap shirt with cap sleeves, usually maroon or maroon and yellow with blue piping.
► shemdap is a maroon skirt made with patched cloth and a varying number of pleats.
► chögu is like a sanghati, a wrap made in patches and worn on the upper body, or sometimes draped over one shoulder like a kashaya robe. The chögu is yellow and worn for certain ceremonies and teachings.
► zhen is similar to the chögu, but maroon, for ordinary day-to-day wear.
► namjar is larger than the chögu, with more patches, yellow silk for formal ceremonial occasions.
The way the monks to wear their robe depends on their sect. The most common is that which is worn for the alms-round with the robe covering
both the shoulders. The two top corners are held and the edges rolled tightly together. The roll is then pushed over the left shoulder, down the back, under the armpit and is held down with the left arm. The roll is parted in front through which protrudes the right arm. Within the monastery or residence and when having an audience with a more senior monk, a simpler style is adopted (as a gesture of respect and to facilitate work). The right side of the robe is pushed under the armpit and over the robe on the left leaving the right shoulder bare. Hats are important for Tibetan monks and a distinctive feature of different schools of Tibetan Buddhism; eg, Red Hats for Nyingmapa and Yellow Hats for Gelugpa. Monks of different sects can be easily distinguished by their caps, eg senior monks of the Ningma Sect wear lotus caps shaped like thrones. It was said that such caps were once worn by Padmasambhava, a senior Indian monk who preached in Tibet. Monks of the Sakya Sect wear heart-shaped caps (sakya cap). Golden-rimmed red caps, said to be granted by an emperor of the Yuan Dynasty, were later changed to yellow caps by Tsong-kha-pa. Although monks' attire is determined by rigid rules, nuns' attire is determined by their financial situation. Their waistcoats may be rimmed with satin, but their skirts and kasaya are usually made of tweed. Sometimes they patch a piece of satin on their shoes to represent their different status. Along with the fast development of society, monk's and nun's clothes have been undergoing changes. Now it is not unusual to see Buddhist monks and nuns wear sport shoes and watches.
As we drove through Lhasa we were impressed by the wide roads of new Lhasa, which contrasted with the cobbled lanes of old Lhasa. We were the first people and parked in the huge car park, pretty much alone. We were surprised In general how little police/ military presence there was, having expected a lot more. Although certain points (outside Potala, Bharkhor Square) had checkpoints they didn’t bother us as we didn’t have ID cards to scan. At Drepung they hardly even looked at us. Drepung Monastery, situated at the foot of Mt Gambo Utse, 5 km from Lhasa, is the most important Gelu(g)pa monastery in Tibetan Buddhism and one of the 'Three Great Monasteries' (the other two are Ganden and Sera). Covering 250,000m2, it held 7,700 monks in total and possessed 141 fazendas and 540 pastures in its heyday, the largest scale monastery of its kind. Seen from afar, its grand white construction gives the appearance of a heap of rice; hence the name 'Drepung', which in Tibetan, means ‘Rice Heap'. Drepung Monastery was established in 1416 by Tsong Khapa's disciple Jamyang Qoigyi (Chörje), who was versed in both Esoteric and Exotoric Buddhism and became the first Kampo there. With wealthy support, it developed as the richest of its kind of Gelugpa and the mother temple of Lamas. In 1546, the 3rd Dalai Lama was welcomed as the first Living Buddha in it. At the invitation of Mongolia's king, he went to Qinghai Province to preach and was given the title '3rd Dalai Lama’ (the 1st and 2nd were entitled too). It is the place that the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Dalai Lamas held the Sitting-in-Bed Ceremony, as well as the residence of the 5th Dalai Lama before his nomination by the government of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Drepung Monastery is unique in its layout and structure, built around the main caves and temples of Jamyang Choge (Qoigyi), including two white pagodas that are surrounded by the other halls and chapels in a mandala pattern, spreading out from the centre of the universe. Lying as it does on the foot of the mountain, Drepung covers a large area, with the most important halls and chapels in the middle, extending out through the Zhacangs and Kamcuns to the outer buildings which housed the monks and staff of the monastery. The central buildings consist of the Ganden Phodrang (Palace, the Dalai Lama’s residence), Coqen (Main Assembly) Hall, several Kamcuns, and colleges, or Zhacangs, of which there were originally seven, now incorporated into the four that still exist. The organisational hierarchy of Drepung Monastery is complex. Monks belonging to respective Zhacangs cannot intermingle. Education in Zhacangs is set up so that, every year there are 8 chances to study the sutra, spanning 15-30 days. Monks are tested before the Kampo in reciting sutras and debating, and based on their performance; receive degrees of different levels.
1. Sanga Tratsang A3
2. Ganden palace A2
3. Kitchen B2
4. Main Assembly Hall B2
5. Ngagpa College A1
6. Samlo Kangtsanh A1
7. Jampelyang Temple A1
8. Jamyang Choje meditation Cave B2
9. Loseling College B2
10. Gomang College C2
11. Lamba Mitze C2
12. Lumbum Kangtsang C2
13. Jurche Mitze C2
14. Deyang College C2
15. Main Debating Courtyard C1

We past the ticket office, up the stone stairs (clockwise of course) on the ancient Pilgrim route (Kora). We saw rock paintings high above our heads, and stopping briefly for the prayer wheels carried on up. On the way were some patient dogs. Apparently pilgrims feed them most mornings and they had learnt to wait.
The first hall on the left (picture) is the Sanga Tratsang (1) a recently renovated chapel, housing statues of protectors Namtöse (Vaishravan), Chögyel (Dharmaraja), Palden Lhamo (Shri Devi on a horse) and Dorje Drakden (the Nechung oracle), all arranged around a central statue of the 5th Dalai Lama. Sanga Tratsag is the picture to the left. Passing the empty Main Debating courtyard (15), we soon arrived outside Ganden Palace (2) aka Ganden Phodrang.
In 1530 the 2nd Dalai Lama established the Ganden palace, which became the home to the Dalai Lamas until the 5th built the Potala. It was from here that the early Dalai lamas exercised their political as well as religious control over central Tibet, and the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Dalai Lamas are all entombed here. We headed up the short stairs and then across the main courtyard where performances of cham (a ritual dance) are traditionally performed during the Shötun festival. Tibetan pilgrims stop to buy amulets and traditional sacred threads here. The upper floor of the main building has 3 chapels that make up the apartments of the early Dalai Lamas. The second of the 3 chapels, to the right, is an audience room with wonder-fully detailed murals and the throne of the 5th Dalai lama, next to a 1000-armed statue of Chenresig. The third is a simple living room. From here descend and cross over to a final chapel. Signs lead past a refreshment stand and a corner rock shrine to Drölma, to the exit to the north.
The Dalai Lama’s throne.

Ganden Palace, exterior and interior
Carrying on clockwise and up past towering whitewashed buildings we did a tiny detour left to the monastery kitchen (3), whose medieval looking cauldron and ladles look like a set from a film. As we had arrived in Tibet shortly after their most important festival of Shotun, all the temples were proudly displaying their torma. Tormas are a ritual cake hand molded by the monks from roasted barley flour and butter. They are dyed with different colours and every torma has a special meaning. They could represent a deity or a mandala and they could also represent offering or un- attachement. Some tormas are also used for deep meditation by the monks. As taught by Guru Padmassambhava "tor' means to give without attachment, and "ma' means completely present. Basic torma take about 2 hours, but the more complex ones we saw we 4+ hours of work. When completed they are taken inside the prayer hall where the Monks do a special ritual before putting torma in the altar of the monastery. These tormas are not for eating (and some of the vibrant colours contain wax so you wouldn’t want to anyway).
Some torma
A large balcony area housed the Main Assembly Hall (4), or Tgochen/ Coqen, the principal structure in the Drepung complex. Coqen Hall is located in the centre. In front is a square occupying an area of about 1,850 sq m. Stepping on the wide stone stairs, you see the grand Entrance Hall. Inside is Sutra Hall supported by 183 pillars, and spanning 1,850 sq m. Amongst the colourful decorations are fine and vivid statues of Buddha, including Manjushri Buddha and Sitatapatra. The second storey houses collections of precious sutras. There are a set of Gangyur Tripitaka written in gold powder, and woodcarving sutras of the Qing Dynasty. On the third storey is enshrined a huge bronze statues of Qamba Buddha, said to be the future appearance of Qamba Buddha in his 8th Jamyang Qoigyi's conch shell given by Tsong Khapa. The hall is reached through an entrance on the west side. The huge interior is very atmospheric, draped with thangkas, covered in monks robes and yellow hats, and supported by over 180 columns; the ones near the western protector chapel dedicated to golden Palden Lhamo are decorated with ancient chainmail and bows. Exquisite statues of Tsong Khapa, Kwan-yin Bodhisattva, Manjushri Bodhisattva, Amitayus, and Jamyang Qoigyi in other sutra halls, as well as flowery murals on walls also present the wisdom of the Tibetan people.
The back room chapel features the protector deities Chana Dorje (Vajrapani, blue) and Tamdrin (Hayagriva, red) on either side of the door, and contains statues of Sakyamuni with his 2 disciples, the Buddhas of the Three Ages, and 9 children above. The walls and pillars are lined with statues of 8 standing bohisattvas. To the front centre there is also a youthful looking statue of Lamdrin Rinpoche (a former abbot of Drepung, recognisable by his black-rimmed glasses); next to it is his chorten. To the east is Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelugpa sect. Statues of interest in the main hall include a 2-storey Jampelyang (Manjushri), accompanied by the moustached 13th Dalai Lama, Sakyamuni, a statue of Tsongkhapa that is said to have spoken, Jamyang Choje in a cabinet to the right, the 7th Dalai Lama and to the right Sakyamuni flanked by 5 of the Dalai lamas. At either end of the altar is a group of 8 arhats (lit worthy ones). Look for the 2-storey statue of Jampa in the back room to the right. Pilgrims walk under the long cabinet on the eastern wall, which holds a huge building-sized thangka that is unveiled during Shotun festival.
Assembly Hall; access to kitchen and Ngagpa College
Loseling College; Future Buddha
Back by the main entrance steps lead up to the 1st and 2nd floors. At the top of the stairs is the Hall of the Kings of Tibet, featuring statues of Tibet’s early kings, as well as Lobsang Gyatso (5th Dalai Lama) and a chapel containing the head of a 2-storey Jampa statue. Pilgrims prostrate themselves and drink from a sacred conch shell. Continue clockwise through Sakyamuni Chapel, filled with chortens, and descend to the Miwang Lhakhang. This chapel contains the assembly hall’s most revered image, a massive statue of Jampa (Future Buddha) at the age of 12. The statue rises through 3 floors, from the ground floor chapel seen earlier, and is flanked by Tsongkhapa to the left and Jamyang Choje to the right. Next is the Drölma Lhakang. Drölma is a protective deity and the 3 Drölma images in the chapel are responsible for protecting Drepung’s drinking water, wealth and authority respectively. There are also fine examples of gold-inked Tibetan Kangyur scriptures here. The central statue is a form of Sakyamuni, whose amulet encases one of Tsongkhapa’s teeth. We exited the building from the western side of the 2nd floor, which led further up, to the highest of Drepung’s buildings, Ngagpa College (5), a staggering 4,100m.
Ngagpa is one of Drepung’s 4 tratsang (colleges) and is devoted to Tantric study. The chapel is dedicated to bull- headed Dorje Jigje (Yamantaka), a Tantric meditation deity who serves as an opponent to the forces of impermanence. The cartoon style Dorje Jigje image in the inner sanctum is said to have been fashioned by Tsongkhapa himself. Walking clockwise, statues include Palden Lhamo (1st, riding a horse), Nagpo Chenpo (3rd), Drolma (4th), Tsongkhapa (5th), 5th Dalai Lama (7th), and by the door, the Nechung oracle. Look for the bull-headed Chogyel to his side, his hand almost thrusting out of the glass cabinet. To get a feel for what Drepung was like before the renovations, detour briefly up to Samlo Kangtsang (6), still a melancholic ruin. Follow the kora round the back of the assembly hall to pass the small Jampelyang Temple (7) where pilgrims pour yak butter on the wall, then peer in to glimpse holy rock images of Jampelyang and Drolma and get hit on the back with a holy iron rod Just a bit further, tucked in on the right, is the tiny mediation cave of Jamyang Choje (8), with some fine rock paintings.
Loseling College (9)
Loseling is the largest of Drepung’s colleges, and studies here were devoted to logic. We popped into the small debating courtyard west of Loseling College. Monks sometimes practise their music in the garden here, blowing huge horns and crashing cymbals. The main hall houses a throne used by the Dalai Lamas, an extensive library, and a long altar decorated with statues of the 5th, 7th and 8th Dalai Lamas, Tsongkhapa and former Drepung abbots. The two chortens of Loseling’s earlier abbots are covered with offerings. There are 3 chapels to the rear of the hall. The one to the left houses 16 arhats. The central chapel has a large statue of Jampa and a self-arisen stone painting of the Nechung oracle on the opposite wall; the chapel to the right has a small but beautiful statue of Sakyamuni. On the 2nd floor we passed a small printing press to enter a small chapel full of angry deities and under the body of a small stuffed goat draped with one-máo notes before entering the spooky gönkhang (protector chapel). There are more protective deities here, including the main Dorje Jigje (Yamantaka), Nagpo Chenpo (6-armed Mahakala), Dorje Drakden and Dorje Lekpa.
Gomang College; Deyang College
Gomang College (10)
Gomang is the 2nd largest of Drepung’s colleges, and follows the same layout as Loseling. The main hall has a whole row of images, including Jampa, Tsepame and the 7th Dalai Lama. Again there are three colleges to the rear; the one to the left houses 3 deities of longevity, but more important is the central chapel, filled with images. As at Loseling there is a single protector chapel on the upper floor (forbidden to women), but S had a look.
Deyang College (14)
The smallest of Drepung’s colleges, its principal image in the main hall is Jampa, flanked by Jampelyang, Drölma, the 5th Dalai Lama, and others. Upstairs are some fine puppet-like standing protector deities. In the north-east corner in the courtyard is the Main Debating Courtyard (15), where monks debate between 2.30 and 4.30 (left).
The monastery is composed of 4 Zhacangs. Loseling Zhacang is the largest with the most lamas. Loseling, Gomang, and Deyang Zhacang focus on Esoteric Buddhism, while Ngaba Zhacang on Exotoric Buddhism. Several courtyards in the dense forests on the grounds are used by monks to debate on the sutras. Courtyards sites are always chosen near Zhacang and various trees are grown. After the debating period in both Zhacang and the entire monastery, the winner will obtain the qualification to attend the test for the senior degree of Geshi.

Drepung Kora
The pilgrim circuit climbs to 4000m past rock paintings and a high wall used to hang a giant thangka during the Shötun festival. It peaks at a valley full of prayer flags and descends via a Drolma (Tara) statue. 10 minutes walk from Drepung is Nechung Monastery, the seat of the Tibetan State Oracle until 1959. The oracle was the medium of Dorje Drakden (an aspect of Pehar, the Gelugpa protector of the Buddhist state), without whom the Dalai Lama would not make any important announcement. In 1904 the oracle resigned in disgrace, having failed to predict the invasion of the British under Younghusband In 1959 the oracle fled to India with the Dalai Lama. The Dorje Drakden, the protective spirit manifest in oracle, has images in the back chapel. The left hand statue is so terrifying it’s face is covered, though the right hand one is more conciliatory. The la-shing (sacred tree) between them is the home of Pehar. The far right chapel has a spirit trap and a statue of Dzogchen deity Ekajati, recognisable from her single fang and eye (power of concentration). The whole site is associated with possession, exorcism and other pre-Buddhist rituals. Every New Year in Lhasa until 1959 the Dalai Lama would go to consult the Nechung Oracle. The oracle wore a feather headdress so heavy that 2 men needed to lift it on. He would then whip himself into a trance in order to dislodge his spirit from his body. He'd would answer questions by writing the answer on a black-board.
We found our minibus once more (and were coping ok with the altitude) and drove back into Lhasa to find Norbulingka. The palace is much lower than Drepung, which is why the 7th Dalai Lama built it as he has respiratory problems. We were dropped off by the main entrance (East Gate) where there are two stylised Snow Lion statues covered in khatas (thin white scarves offered as a mark of respect). The Snow Lion on the left is accompanied by a lion cub. The mythical Snow Lion is the symbol of Tibet; according to legend they jump from one snow peak to another. As we walked in we saw that unlike many Buddhist temples, the beautiful flower filled gardens gave a soft, natural tone.

Norbulingka Palace
Summer Palace (Tibetan ཎོར་ བུ་ ལིང་ ཀ་, Chinese 罗布林卡 lit "Jewelled Park") is a palace and park in west Lhasa, a short distance from Potala Palace and at 36 hectares the largest garden in Tibet. It was built 1755 to serve as the traditional summer monks residence. The Sho Dun Festival ("yogurt festival") is an annual festival held at Norbulingka in 7th Tibetan month c August. Norbulingka, meaning 'Treasure Park' in Tibetan, is on the bank of the Kyichu River, about one km southwest of Potala Palace. The 7th Dalaï lama founded the first summer palace in the Norbulingka in 1755. Rather than use the palace simply as a retreat, he decided to use the wooded environs as a summer base from which to administer the country, a practice repeated by subsequent Dalai lamas. The grand procession of the Dalai lama's entourage relocating from the Potala to the Norbulingka became one of the highlights of Lhasa’s year. The 8th Dalai Lama (1758-1804) initiated more work, expanding the garden and digging the lake south of the New Summer Palace. The 13th Dalai Lama was responsible for the 3 palaces in the north west corner and the 14th (present) Dalai Lama built the New Summer Palace. In total the complex has 374 rooms, in potrangs (palaces), pavilions and smaller buildings. In 1959 the 14th Dalai Lama escaped the Norbulingka disguised as a Tibetan soldier. All the palaces of the Norbulingka were damaged by Chinese artillery fire in the subsequent popular uprising. At the time, the compound was surrounded by 30000 Tibetans determined to defend their spiritual leader. Repairs are still underway. It has now been turned into a park open to the public. Norbulingka consists of several palace complexes, such as the Kelsang Potrang, Tsokyil Potrang, Golden Linka, Takten Migyur Potrang. Each palace complex is divided into three sections; palace section, section in front of the palace and the woods.
Kelsang Podrang
Kelsang Potrang, the first and oldest of the palaces, was named after the 7th Dalai Lama. Every Dalai Lama from the 8th to the 14th has used it as a summer palace. The main audience hall features 65 hanging thangkas and lovely painted wood. It is a 3-storey palace with halls for worship-ping Buddha, bedrooms, reading rooms and sanctuaries. Tsokyil Potrang, when the 8th Dalai Lama was in power, is considered the most attractive in Norbulingka. Khamsum Zilnon, built during that time to enjoy Tibetan opera, is really a striking pavilion of Han architectural style. In 1922, a wealthy benefactor had Golden Linka and Chensel Potrang constructed for the 13th Dalaï-lama. Meanwhile, flowers, grasses and trees were planted. The New Summer Palace (Takten Mihyü Podrang) in the centre of the park was built by the present Dalai Lama between 1954-6 and is the most interesting of the Norbulingka palaces. We stopped by the beautiful fountain entrance filled with flowers to take a picture. We then had to put our cameras away and enter the walled complex from its east side. The combination of the characteristics of temple and villa is quite magnificent.
The exquisite murals in the palace were well worth a visit. The murals in the northern hall show the kind, calm Sakyamuni and his eight disciples. However, the murals in the southern hall vividly tell the development of Tibet in comic-like strips. The first of the rooms is the Dalai Lama’s audience chambers. Note the wall murals, which depict the history of Tibet in 301 scenes that flow in rows from left to right. As you stand with your back to the window, the murals start on the left wall with Sakyamuni and show the mythological beginnings of the Tibetan people (from the union of a bodhisattva and a monkey in the Sheldrak Cave) as well as the first field in Tibet (to symbolise the introduction of agriculture). The wall in front depicts the circular building of Samye monastery. Ganden, Drepung and other monasteries were to the right. The right wall shows the construction of the Potala and Norbulingka. Next come the Dalai Lama’s private quarters, which consist of a meditation chamber and a bedroom. These rooms have been maintained almost exactly as he left them, and apart from the usual Buddhist images they contain the occasional surprise like a Soviet radio. The assembly hall where the Dalai Lama would address heads of state, is home to a gold throne backed by wonderful cartoon style murals of the Dalai Lama’s court (left at back); look out for British representative Hugh Richardson in a trilby and several Mongolian ambassadors. The right wall depicts the Dalai Lamas. The first 5 lack the Wheel of Law, symbolising their lack of governmental authority. Last are the suites of the Dalai Lama’s mother whose bathroom basin overflows with offerings of 1 máo notes.
We left after popping in to the charming yellow walled mani lakhang to the south of the entrance. As we exited we headed right to the dramatic Lake Palaces. In the centre of a lake, three islands were connected to the land by short bridges and a small palace was built on each island. South of the New Summer Palace is the artificial lake commissioned by the 8th Dalai Lama. The only open pavilion is the retreat of the 13th Dalai Lama in the south west corner, featuring a library, 1000-armed Chenresig statue and a stuffed tiger in the corner. Pilgrims walk around the Mongolian style cairn of stones to the left of the building. We left via the summer palace of the 13th Dalai Lama (Chensek Podrang) in the western section of the Norbulingka. The ground floor of the assembly hall here was stuffed full of palanquins and bicycles, making the fine murals depicting the life of Sakyamuni are dark and hard to see. Nearby the smaller Kelsang Dekyi Palace was also built by the 13th Dalai Lama in 1926, as a Tantric temple. The fine murals depict Ganden and Potala (the Buddhist paradises, not the buildings). Opposite is the Tibet museum, heavy with communist propaganda.
After this we drove out of Lhasa towards Sera Monastery, parking just below the entrance. It was definitely lunch, so we stopped for a buffet lunch (mainly vegetarian) at Lazkhenhang Restaurant. It was a good deal with a variety of food and drinks in a garden environment. After a good rest we set off across the parking area to Sera’s entrance.

First kings of the pre-Imperial Yarlung Dynasty (2nd-6th century)
The pre-Imperial Yarlung Dynasty rulers are more mythological than factual, and there is insufficient evidence of their definitive existence. Nyatri Tsenpo is considered by traditional histories to have been the first king of the Yarlung Dynasty, named after the river valley where its capital city was located, 55 miles south-east from Lhasa. The dates attributed to him vary. Some Tibetan texts give 126 BC, others 414 BC. Nyatri Tsenpo is said to have descended from a one-footed creature called the Theurang, have webbed fingers and a tongue so large it could cover his face. Due to his terrifying appearance he was feared in his native Puwo and exiled by the Bön to Tibet where he became king. Tibetan kings were said to remain connected to the heavens via a dmu cord (dmu thag) so that rather than dying, they ascended directly to heaven, when their sons achieved their majority. According to various accounts, king Drigum Tsenpo (Dri-gum-brtsan-po) either challenged his clan heads to a fight, or provoked his groom Longam (Lo-ngam) into a duel. During the fight the king‘s dmu cord was cut, and he was killed. Thereafter Drigum Tsenpo and subsequent kings left corpses and the Bön conducted funerary rites. In a later myth, the Tibetans are the progeny of the union of monkey Pha Trelgen Changchup Sempa (a manifestation of the bodhisattva Chenresig, or Avalokiteśvara) and rock goddess Ma Drag Sinmo (an incarnation of Chenresig's consort Jetsun Dolma / White Tara).

Sera Monastery
Located at the foot of Tatipu Hill, north of Lhasa, Sera Monastery is one of 3 famous monasteries in Lhasa, along with Drepung and Ganden. It belongs to the Gelugpa/ Yellow Hat Sect, a branch of Tibetan Buddhism founded by Tsong Khapa. Jamchen Chöje (Sakya Yeshe), one of Tsong Khapa's disciples, in 1419 (Ming Dynasty 1368-1644). The 114,946m2 monastery was named Sera (wild rose in Tibetan), because the hill behind was covered with wild roses in bloom. Of the original 5 colleges, only 3 remained open by 1959. Scriptures written in gold powder, fine statues, scent cloth and unparalleled murals can be found in the halls. Colourful debates on Buddhist doctrines held here employ a style distinctive from Lhasa's other famous monasteries. Its once-huge monastic population of 5000 monks has been reduced by 90% and renovation is underway. The best time to visit is in the morning for active chanting, or between 3-5pm when debating is held in the monastery’s debating courtyard. Most chapels close between 3-3:30, so visit them before the debating. The Coqen is a magnificent 4-storey building in the northwest area with 5 adding chapels. Zhacang (Buddhist College in Tibetan) are for monks to study Buddhist Classics. There are 3 Zhacangs in the monastery: Me Zhacang, Je Zhacang and Ngaba Zhacang. The oldest, Sera Me, was built in 1419 (Ming Dynasty) and features a a well-preserved fresco. In Je Zhacang the Hayagriva displayed is famous throughout Tibet. Ngaba Zhacang is the smallest and newest. Its founders, Jamchen Choje, is worshipped inside.

1. Tsangba Kangtsang B3
2. Tsowa Kangtsang A3
3. Sera Me College B3
4. Sera Ngagpa College B2
5. Jarung Kangtsang B2
6. Sera Je College B2
7. Debating Courtyard C2
8. Hardong Kangtsang C1
9. Main Assembly Hall (Coqen) C2
10. Kitchen C2
11. Sand Mandala B2
12. Printing press B2
13. Sera Kora B1
14. Thangka Wall C2
15. Chöding Hermitage D2

Walking in across the small bridge we contended with scores of sellers trying to interest us in odd stuff like candy floss, before arriving at the main gate. Soon after, on the left, was Sera Me College. We followed the pilgrims clockwise past Tsangba Kangtsang and Tsowo Kangtsang residential halls and several minor buildings in Sera Me. This college dates back to the original founding of the monastery. The central image of the impressive main hall is a copper Sakyamuni, flanked by Jampa and Jampelyang. To the rear are 4 chapels; the left dark chapel, for men only, is dedicated to the dharma protector of the east, Ta-og (in an ornate brass case and wearing a hat), alongside Dorje Jigje. Look for the masks, iron thunderbolts and mirrors hanging from the ceiling. To the left of the entrance is a 3-d wooden mandala used to invoke the Medicine Buddha. Sera Me specialised in fundamental precepts of Buddhism. Continuing to the central chapel, which contains statues of the Past, Present and Future Buddhas, as well as 16 arhats depicted in their mountain grottoes. The next chapel houses Dagtse Jowo, a central 15th C Sakyamuni statue which is the most sacred of the college’s statues. At the back are Tsepame and 8 bodhisattvas. The entrance to the chapel is guarded by the protectors Tamdrin (Hayagriva, red) and Miyowa (Achala, blue). The last chapel is dedicated to Tsongkhapa and there are images of several Dalai Lamas, as well as of Sakya Yeshe (left corner, black hat), Sera’s founder and first abbot. There are 2 chapels on the upper floor. The first after you mount the stairs, is dedicated to Sakyamuni, depicted in the unusual standing form known as Thuwang. The second is a Drölma chapel with 1000 statues of this protective deity. The third has 1000 statues of Chenresig and a huge brass pot in the corner.
Entrance gate x 2, Sera Me
A small chapel at the edge of Sera Me held 2 very nice sand mandalas, which I had to pay 50p to photo.
Sera Ngagpa
Sand Mandala དཀྱིལ་འཁོར།, is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition involving the creation and destruction of mandalas made from coloured sand. A sand mandala is ritually dismantled and its accompanying ceremonies are finished to symbolise the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life. Historically, the mandala was not created with dyed sand, but granules of crushed coloured stone. In modern times, ink achieves the same effect. The monks use a special, dense sand in order to limit interference by wind or sneezes. Before starting, the monks will draw the geo-metric measurements associated with the mandala. The sand granules are then applied using small tubes, funnels, and scrapers, called chak-pur, until the pattern is achieved. Sand mandalas traditionally take several weeks due to the large amount of work and intricate detail. It is common that a team of monks will work together, creating one section of the diagram at a time, working from the centre outwards.
Sera Ngagpa College: A Tantric college, Ngagpa is also the oldest structure at Sera. It was the first building Jamchen Choje erected and it served as the main assembly hall for the monks until, over the years, Sera expanded to its present size. When it was replaced by a larger assembly hall it became the tantric (Ngag pa) college of Sera. The pillar capitals in the entrance hall are some of the finest examples you can see in Tibet. The main hall is dominated by a statue of Sakya Yeshe wearing a black hat, behind a throne, surrounded by other famous Sera lamas. There are 2 chapels to the rear of the hall. The more interesting is that of the Sixteen Arhats to the left. Seated in niches halfway up the wall are Tibetan images of the 16 wise men and below them, on a ledge, another sixteen small, lacquered Chinese statues. These were offered by Emperor Yong lo to Jamchen Choje when he visited China. A large figure of Shakyamuni is in the centre with a finely carved wood halo with a small statue of Milarepa to his right. In the right chapel is a statue of the protective deity Dorje Jigje (Yamantaka/ Dharmaraja), as well as Namtöse (Vaishravana), guardian of the north, who rides a snow lion and holds a mongoose that vomits jewels. Palden Lhamo and Mahakala are also represented. The main hall’s outstanding image is that of Jamchen Choje, the founder of Sera. The smiling radiant face of the statue is crowned with a distinctive black hat around which are Sanskrit letters (probably given to him by the Chinese emperor Yung-lo; it resembles that of the Karmapa Black sect, also a gift from a Chinese emperor). It is said that when the new main assembly hall was built, it was planned to move this statue there, but at the moment of departure, the statue declared that it preferred to stay.
Therefore, a copy was made and placed in the main assembly hall instead. Jampa and a 1000-armed Chenresig also feature. Many other Sera lamas sit to either side of Jamchen Choje. An expressive image of the first abbot of Sera, Gyeltsen Sangpo, sits to the left Maitreya and Pabongka Rinpoche. He is recognisable by his stern expression and goatee beard. Second from the end on the right is a large figure of Jetsun Chokyi Gyaltsen the Sera lama who wrote the standard textbooks on philosophy and debate for the college. Next to him a smaller statue of Lodro Rinchen, the founder of Sera Je college. There are a couple of rooms upstairs featuring Tsepame, the 8 medicine buddhas (Menlha) and the funeral chortens of several past abbots. After exiting most pilgrims pay a visit to nearby Jarung Kangtsang residential college.

Continuing up the steps took us to the west entrance of Sera Je College, which specialised in the instruction of itinerant monks from outside central Tibet. Sera Je this is the largest of Sera’s colleges, generally accessed from a western side entrance, It has a breathtaking main hall, hung with thangkas and lit by shafts of light from high windows. Several chortens hold the remains of Sera’s most famous lamas. To the left of the hall is a passage leading, via a chapel dedicated to the Past, Present and Future Buddhas, to the most sacred of Sera’s chapels, Chapel of Tamdrin. Tamdrin (Hayagriva) is a wrathful meditational deity whose name means horse-headed. He is the chief protective deity of Sera and there is often a queue of pilgrims waiting to touch their (and especially their children’s) foreheads to his feet. Hayagriva (ཧཡགྲིབ༹་, Tamdrin) is the wrathful manifestation of Avalokiteshvara who symbolises enlightened speech, usually depicted as red in colour and with a horse's head protruding from his crown. Monks sell holy threads, protective amulets and sacred pills here, as well as red slips of inscribed paper which pilgrims buy to burn for the recently deceased. The ornate brass shrine reminded us of the temples of Kathmandu, apart from the weapons, hats and masks hanging from the ceiling. There is a second chapel for him on the upper floor, but there he is in another aspect with 9 heads. The first chapel to the rear of the hall is devoted to a lovely statue of Sakyamuni, seated in a fine canopy and ceiling mandalas. Pilgrims climbed the steps to the right to touch his left leg. The next 2 chapels are dedicated to Tsongkhapa, with Sakyamuni and Öpagme (Amitabha); and to Jampelyang, flanked by jampa and another Jampelyang. From here head to the upstairs chapels.
Hayagriva- you can just see the horse head on top of his head.
It was now time to go to the Main Debating Courtyard to watch the monks debate- quite fascinating (right).
There is a protocol for debating, involving a lot of hand slapping, leg lifting and bead tossing. Buddhists believe that a person can be freed by wisdom, and seeing the nature of things, and so philosophical debate is one of the paths to wisdom. It is a practice to debate philosophical concepts, and so valued that if one loses a debate, one is compelled to accept the argument of the other debater. The main purpose of Tibetan monastic debates is to defeat misconceptions. By establishing a defensible view, one can clear away objections to that view. Debaters are seeking the understanding of the nature of reality through a careful analysis of natural phenomena. This search for the basis of reality is the most essential part of a monastic debate. Most monasteries have a designated area where debates are held, and this can be a field, orchard or courtyard, depending on the monastery. At the start of the debates, monks are normally paired, with one monk standing and the other sitting. The standing monk poses the question that is the subject of the debate, and the sitting monk has to answer. As soon as the monk asks his question, normally composed of a logical argument on the philosophical teachings of Buddhism and including many hand gestures and movements, the monk claps his hands together, signifying he is finished, and giving the sitting monk the opportunity to answer. Tibetan debates are very animated and passionate, as they rage back and forth between the two debaters, exchanging questions and answers in logical progression. A debate is a special system of logic where the debaters learn to work with the concepts of what they have been taught, and is a good way to train their thoughts to be logical and to use exact expression. The form of the debates has been adapted over the centuries from the original Indian style. While the questioner has an unlimited number of ways to ask the question, the defender is limited in how he can form the answer. These answers include responses: “The reason is not established,” (deny the minor premise), “There is no pervasion,” (deny the major premise) or “I accept it,” (the defender has accepted the argument and conclusion). In Sera, it is the senior monks who grill their young disciples on the various doctrines of Tibetan Buddhism. The senior monk will fire a question at the seated younger disciple, testing their knowledge of Buddhist scriptures and their understanding of philosophical argument and logic. The dramatic hand slapping is part of the debate, and is the signal for the seated monk to respond to the questions. Afterwards S and S recreated the slapping (with the leg-up gesture), much to some Chinese tourists from Yangshuo amusement.
S wanted a rest, but I wanted to see (and meditate in) the magnificent Coqen (Assembly hall). So D took us up right to it and I had 10 minutes of super meditation.

Main Assembly Hall; the main hall or Tsogchen (coqen), is the largest of Sera’s buildings and dates back to 1710. The central hall is particularly impressive and is noted for its 125 decorated pillars, wall-length thangkas and 2-storey statue of Jampa. He is surrounded by other figures, including Dalai Lamas on the right, while to the left is the large throne of the 13th Dalai lama. Left of the throne is a figure of Sakya Yeshe. There are some incredibly ornate yak butter sculptures in this hall. It consists of 5 chapels which give honour to the Maitreya, Sakyamuni, Arhats, Tsong Khapa, and Kwan-yin with 1000 hands and 11 faces. The monastery holds 105 of the original 108 volumes of Gangyur of Tripitaka (in Tibetan). These priceless volumes, the earliest sutras printed by engraving in China, were presented as a gift to Jamchen Chojey by Emperor Chengzhu, of the Ming Dynasty. Of the 3 chapels to the rear of the hall, the central is the most important, with its 6m high Jampa statue, which rises to the upper floor where it can be viewed from a central chapel. Also on the upper floor (to the far left of the central chapel) is a highly revered statue of a 1000-armed Chenresig. Pilgrims put their forehead to a walking stick that connects them directly to the heart of compassion. The atmospheric monastery kitchen on the east side of the Tsogchen is worth a visit. To the side is a wonderful rock painting depicting Jampelyang, Chenresig, Chana Dorje (Vajrapani) and Green Tara. Nearby is Hardong Kangtsang: which served as a residence for monks studying at Sera Je college. At the entry of the chapel were 3 photos of Ekai Kawaguchi, the Japanese monk who studied here in disguise in 1901.
Assembly Hall and Sera Utse
Kamcun are the dormitories where the monks dine and sleep. Sera Monastery has 33 Kamcuns around a central courtyard. They are comprised of halls to read the doctrine, houses and tea houses. The Kamcuns range in size, as do the number of monks in each one. Lamas from the same or neighbouring areas of Tibet are placed together in a Kamcun.
As we left D pointed out Sera Utsé Hermitage high up in the hills (photo above using my super telephoto lens). Sera Utsé Hermitage, meaning “Sera Peak” is located on the mountain directly behind Sera Monastery, about a 1!-hour walk uphill from the main complex. It is reputedly older than Sera Gompa. According to tradition, the site contained one of Tsongkhapa’s (1357–1419) meditation huts and Drubkhang Gelek Gyatso (1641– 1713) was said to have meditated here late 17th/early 18th century. He was a distinguished meditator who brought his knowledge of the philosophical tradition to Sera Utsé and attracted many students, including Ngwang Jampa (1682–1762), and Khardo Zopa Gyatso (1672–1749). Historically the monastery was a substantial size but following its 1959 destruction by the Chinese only a section was rebuilt. Sera Utsé has a 2-storey chapel and monks' quarters with magnificent views over Lhasa. There is a protector shrine to Pehar and Shridevi. A small assembly hall remains, once believed to contain a large metal statue of Vajrabhairava, a great statue of Yamāntaka Ekavīra, statues of the Buddha and the Sixteen Arhats, a speaking Tārā statue, large images of Tsongkhapa and his 2 disciples, and statues of the Drupkhang incarnation lineage. Today the hall has 3 monks but is not used for general worship. The residence consists of 2 rooms with a central waiting room between them. There is a meditation hut, small protector deity chapel, Dharma enclosure, ruined kitchen and smaller huts. The only celestial burial place in Lhasa is on this hill behind Sera Monastery, but visitors are not permitted to witness a celestial (sky) burial due to the local customs.

A short distance from Sera is Pabonka Monastery, the most ancient Buddhist site in Lhasa. Built on a flat-topped granite boulder said to resemble a tortoise, Pabonka even predates Jokhang and Ramoche. King Songtsen Gampo built the monastery in the 7th century and he, his Chinese wife Princess Wencheng, King Trisong Detsen, Guru Rinpoche and Tibet’s first 7 monks all meditated here at some time. The 9-storey tower was destroyed in 841 by the anti-Buddhist King Langdharma and rebuilt in the 11th century. The 5th Dalai Lama added an extra floor to create a 3-storey building. On up the hill and past some chortens is Pabonka rock (said to look like a female tortoise) and Palden Lhamo Cave where Songtsen Gampo meditated.
As we drove back, we passed Chongye (just outside Lhasa old town) to see the tombs of the Tibetan kings, one of the few historical sites giving evidence of the pre-Buddhist culture. The underwhelming mounds of earth are the favoured internment of the Bön faith. The burials were probably officiated by Bön priests and accompanied by sacrificial offerings. Archaeological evidence suggests that earth, not sky, burials were commonplace in the time of the Yarlung kings. The most revered of the 10 mounds is the 130-m Tomb of Songtsen Gampo with a small Nyingmapa temple on top. The furthest mound, high on the slopes of Mt. Meru, is the Tomb of Trisong Detsen. Drolma explained the theory behind sky burials to us. In their view (which may have come from pre-Buddhist Bon practises) leaving a corpse to be eaten by vultures was a completion of the circle of life. Humans don’t eat vultures, so you are never in danger of eating something that ate a relative. Conversely your body goes towards sustaining life as vultures are eaten by the next predator, etc. This partly explained by they dislike the idea of water burial and why no one eats fish in Tibet. As time has moved on sky burials have become quite rare, with interment regaining popularity.

We were dropped off at our hotel at dusk, and decided to walk to the Potala to see the sunset behind it. After watching it go quite dark, we walked back for a yak supper at Dunya restaurant, opposite the historic Banak Shöl Hotel, 8 Beijing Road. The hotel is famous for its distinctive wooden verandas.

Tibetan Empire (618–842) Yarlung Dynasty
By the early 6th C the Yarlung kings had conquered most Tibetan tribes. Namri Songtsen/ Löntsän (570?–618?/ 629), 32nd King of Tibet, gained control of the area around what is now Lhasa by 630, and conquered Zhangzhung. With this the Yarlung kingdom became the Tibetan Empire. Namri Songtsen sent embassies to China in 608/9, marking the entry of Tibet on the international stage. From the 7th c AD Chinese historians referred to Tibet as Tubo. Tibetan history has a lengthy list of rulers whose exploits only become subject to external verification in 7th C Chinese histories. From the 7th-11th c a series of emperors ruled Tibet of whom the most important were Songtsen Gampo, Trisong Detsen and Ralpacan, "3 religious kings", assimilated to the 3 protectors, ie Avalokiteśvara, Mañjuśrī and Vajrapāni. Songtsen Gampo (c. 604–50) expanded Tibet's power beyond Lhasa/ Yarlung Valley, and is credited with introducing Buddhism to Tibet. By the early 9th century, its influence extended from Bengal to Mongolia. The varied terrain and difficult transportation, coupled with new ideas arriving as a result of expansion, created power blocs, and the Bön religion and ancient noble families found themselves in competition with Buddhism. The traditional list of ancient Tibetan rulers has 42 names, of which the first 26 are probably legendary, 27-32 were historical and 33-42 are well documented in Tibetan, Chinese and foreign sources. A unified Tibetan state did not exist before king 31. The earlier rulers, known as the Yarlung dynasty, were probably just local chiefs in the Yarlung Valley area, rather than emperors of Tibet. Tibetan titles for the emperor are tsenpo ("Emperor") and lhase ("Divine Son").
Lha Thothori gNyan bTsan (28th King of Tibet. Lha "divine, pertaining to the gods of the sky" is an honorary title and not a part of his proper name. Modern scholars believe he was an historical ruler, as he is also mentioned in a Chinese source. They date his rule to the 5th century, because the 33rd king Songtsän Gampo died in 650. He did not rule over the whole of Tibet; his was probably limited to the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon area. According to local legend, Buddhist scriptures (among them the Kāraṇḍavyūhasūtra) first arrived in Tibet in his time. The volumes supposedly fell from the sky onto the roof of the royal palace, but there may be an historical background (arrival of Buddhist missionaries). In any case, this first contact of Tibetans with Buddhism cannot have been more than an incident with no lasting impact. The cinta-mani is said to be one of four relics that came in a chest that fell from the sky (many terma fell from the sky in caskets) during the reign of king Lha Thothori Nyantsen. Though the king did not understand the purpose of the objects, he kept them in a position of reverence. Several years later, 2 mysterious strangers appeared at his court, explaining the four relics, which included the Buddha's bowl and a mani stone (a jewel, crystal, gem with the om mani padme hum mantra inscribed on it).
The Tibetan Empire
This empire བོད་ཆེན་པོ existed from the 7th- 9th c AD. Tibet was a large and powerful empire, and ruled an area considerably larger than the Tibetan Plateau, stretching to parts of East Asia, Central Asia and South Asia. From the time of emperor Songtsen Gampo the power of the empire increased over a diverse terrain. By the reign of emperor Ralpacan, in the early 9th century, it controlled the Tarim basin, Himalayas, Bengal, and Chinese provinces Gansu and Yunnan. The empire collapsed into civil war in the 840s.
Namri Songtsen (c618/29) According to the Old Tibetan Chronicle,at Taktsé Castle a group convinced Tagbu Nyazig 579-618 to rebel against Gudri Zingpoje, a vassal of the Zhangzhung empire under the Lig myi dynasty. The group prevailed against Zingpoje. Namri Songtsen (aka Namri Löntsän) was the leader of a clan who gained control of the area round Lhasa, before his assassination by poison. This new regional state later became the Tibetan Empire. The government of Namri Songtsen sent two embassies to the Chinese Sui Dynasty in 608/9, marking the appearance of Tibet on the international scene.
Songtsen Gampo (618-650) expanded Tibet's power beyond Lhasa/ Yarlung Valley, and introduced Buddhism to Tibet. When his father Namri Songtsen died, Songtsen Gampo took control, putting down a brief rebellion. Songtsen Gampo proved adept at diplomacy as well as combat. The emperor's minister, Myang Mangpoje (Zhang-shang clan), defeated the Sumpa people c627, but was accused of treason and executed. He was succeeded by minister Gar Songtsen. Chinese records mention an envoy from Tibet in 634 with a request to marry a Chinese princess but was refused. In 635/6 the Emperor attacked and defeated the Tuyuhun, who lived around Lake Koko Nur, and took control of the trade routes into China. After a Tibetan campaign against China in 635/6, the Chinese emperor agreed to provide a Chinese princess to Songtsen Gampo. In c639, Songtsen Gampo had a dispute with his younger brother Tsänsong, who was burned to death by his own minister Khäsreg at the behest of his older brother. The Chinese Princess Wencheng (Tibetan: Mung-chang Kung-co) departed China in 640 to marry Songtsen Gampo's son. She arrived in 641, traditionally credited as the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet, but it is unlikely it extended beyond the foreigners at court. Songtsen Gampo’s sister Sämakar was sent to marry Lig-myi-rhya, the king of Zhangzhung, Western Tibet, but when the king refused to consummate the marriage, she helped her brother to defeat Lig myi-rhya and incorporate Zhangzhung into the Tibetan Empire in 645. Songtsen Gampo died in 650 and was succeeded by his infant grandson Trimang Lön, though real power was in the hands of minister Gar Songtsen.
Gungsong Gungtsen only son of Songtsen Gampo, who had 6 wives; Nepalese princess Bhrikuti, Chinese Princess Wencheng (both devout Buddhists), the daughter of the King of Zhangzhung, the daughter of the King of the Western Xia, noblewomen from the Ruyong and Mong (Mang) clans. Gungsong Gungtsen was born to Mangza (Mongsa) Tricham, a noble woman from the Mang/ Mong clan of Tölung, west of Lhasa. It seems unlikely Songtsen Gampo handed over power to his son after his marriage to Princess Wencheng in 641, as she was married to the ruling monarch. If Gungsong Gungtsen was married and had a son before 641, he was probably born c625. Some accounts say that when Gungsong Gungtsen reached the age of 13 Songtsen Gampo retired in favour of his son. Gungsong Gungtsen married 'A-zha Mang-mo-rje and they had a son, Mangsong Mangtsen (r.650-676). Gungsong Gungtsen only ruled for 5 years and died at 18. His father, Songtsen Gampo, retook the throne. It is unclear whether Gungsong Gungtsen was enthroned as Emperor, nor is there any mention of his reign in Chinese or Tibetan Annals. He is, therefore, sometimes not included in the list of Tibetan rulers.
Mangsong Mangtsen (650-676) (Khri-lde-gtsug-brtsan), previously Prince Trimang Lön (Trimang Löntsen/ Khri- mang-slon-rtsan). After incorporating Tuyuhun into Tibetan territory, minister Gar Songtsen died in 667. Between 665–70 Khotan was defeated by the Tibetans, and a series of conflicts ensued with the Chinese Tang Dynasty. In 670 Tibet attacked the Chinese in Tarim Basin and won the Battle of Dafeichuan. With troops from Khotan they conquered Aksu, upon which the Chinese abandoned the region, ending two decades of Chinese control. Mangsong Mangtsen married Thrimalö (Khri-ma-lod), a woman of great importance in Tibetan history. After his death Zhangzhung revolts occurred. His son Tridu Songtsen (Khri 'dus-srong btsan or Khri-'dus-srong-rtsan) was born posthumously.
Tridu Songtsen (677-704) As Tridu Songtsen was an infant, his mother, Thrimalö (Gar clan) ran the kingdom. There is evidence that the Gar were descended from members of the Lesser Yuezhi, a people who originally spoke an Indo- European language and migrated c3rd century BC. In 685, minister Gar Tsenye Dompu died and his brother, Gar Tridring Tsendrö replaced him.
Khri ma lod (Thrimalö), Empress, co-ruler of the Tibetan empire, 675-89 and 704-12. Her title was tsenmo (the female equivalent of tsenpo, the Tibetan title translated as emperor). Khri ma lod was married to emperor Mangsong Mangtsen. He died in 676/7, and in the same year she gave birth to his son Tridu Songtsen. The Zhangzhung revolted early in her son's reign. She shared power with the Gar (Mgar) clan. In 692, the Tibetans lost the Tarim Basin again to the Chinese. Gar Tridring Tsendrö defeated the Chinese in battle in 696. In 698 Tridu Songtsen invited the Gar clan (c2000 people) to a hunting party and had them massacred. Gar Tridring Tsendrö committed suicide, and his troops joined the Chinese. From 700 until his death the emperor campaigned while his mother Thrimalö administered in his name. In 702, Zhou China under Empress Wu Zetien and the Tibetan Empire concluded peace. During 703, Tridu Songtsen invaded Jang (either Mosuo or the kingdom of Nanzhao) and in 704, Mywa, which was at least in part Nanzhao (Tibetan mywa = Chinese Man/Miao) but died during the campaign. His wife, Tsenma Toktokteng, Princess of Chim gave birth to Gyältsugru in 704 for whom Thrimalö ruled as regent. The following year an elder son of Tridu Songtsen, Lha Balpo (704) contested the succession of his half brother, but was "deposed from the throne". Khri ma lod died in 712. Gyältsugru was officially enthroned with the royal name Tride Tsuktsän. Khri ma lod remains the only woman in Tibetan history to rule Tibet.
Tride Tsuktsän/ Me Agtsom (704-54) Gyältsugru (Rgyal-gtsug-ru), later King Tride Tsuktsen (Khri-lde-gtsug- brtsan), was generally known by his nickname Me Agtsom (Old Hairy). Thrimalö arranged for a royal marriage to the Chinese princess Jincheng (Kyimshang Kongjo) who arrived in 710 to marry the 7-year-old Gyeltsugru, who also married a lady from Jang (Nanzhao) and another from Nanam. Gyältsugru was officially enthroned with the royal name Tride Tsuktsän in 712, the year that dowager empress Thrimalö died. After a rebellion in southern China and a major Tibetan victory in 730, the Tibetans and Türgesh sued for peace. In 734 the Tibetans married their princess Dronmalön (‘Dron ma lon) to the Türgesh Qaghan (Khan). The Chinese allied with the Caliphate to attack. In 737, the Tibetans launched an attack against the king of Bru-za (Gilgit), who asked for Chinese help, but was ultimately forced to pay homage to Tibet. In 747, Chinese general Gao Xianzhi tried to re-open communications between Central Asia and Kashmir. By 750 the Tibetans had lost almost all their central Asian possessions and by 753 even the kingdom of "Little Balur" was captured by the Chinese. However, after Gao Xianzhi's defeat by the Caliphate at the Battle of Talas (751), Chinese influence decreased rapidly. Tibet conquered large sections of northern India. In 755 Tride Tsuktsen was killed by the ministers Lang and ‘Bal.
Trisong Detsen (756-97/804) In 756 prince Song Detsän was crowned Emperor with the name Trisong Detsen (Khri sron lde brtsan) and took control of the government when he attained his majority. From 755-63 China was weakened by the An Shi Rebellion. Trisong Detsän reasserted Tibetan influence in Central Asia, pressing into the territory of the Tang emperors and reaching the Chinese capital Chang'an (modern Xi’an) in 763. Tibetan troops occupied Chang'an for 15 days and installed a puppet emperor while Tang Emperor Daizong was in Luoyang. Nanzhao remained under Tibetan control until 794, when they turned on their Tibetan overlords and helped the Chinese inflict defeat on the Tibetans. In 785, Wei Kao repulsed Tibetan invasions of Shuh. The Kyrgyz negotiated a ‘friendship’ with Tibet and other powers to allow free trade in the region. An attempt at peace between Tibet and China was made in 787, but hostilities lasted until the Sino-Tibetan treaty of 821 was inscribed in Lhasa in 823. At the same time, the Uyghurs, nominal allies of the Tang, attacked along Tibet's northern border. Recent research indicates the presence of Christianity as early as the 6th/7th centuries, a period when the Hephthalites (Bactria/ Afghanistan) had extensive links with the Tibetans. A strong presence existed by 782 when Patriarch Timothy I (727-823) called the Tibetans one of the more significant communities of the eastern church and wrote of the need to appoint another bishop. There is a stone pillar, the Lhasa Shöl/Zhol, Doring Chima Pillar, in the ancient village of Shöl in front of the Potala in Lhasa, dating c.764. It contains an account of the conquest of large swathes of northwest China including the capture of Chang'an, the Chinese capital, for a short period in 763 CE, during the reign of Emperor Daizong.
Muné Tsenpo (c797-c799) Trisong Detsen had 4 sons. The eldest, Mutri Tsenpo, apparently died young. When Trisong Detsen retired he handed power to his eldest son, Muné Tsenpo (Mu-ne btsan-po). Most sources say Muné's reign lasted only 11⁄2 years, supposedly poisoned on the orders of his mother. After his death, Mutik Tsenpo was next in line to the throne, but had been banished to Lhodak Kharch near the Bhutanese border. The youngest brother, Tride Songtsen, was ruling by AD 804.
Tride Songtsen/ Sadnalegs (799-815) Under Tride Songtsen (Khri lde srong brtsan) there was a protracted war with the Abbasid Caliphate. Tibet was active as far west as Samarkand and Kabul. The Tibetan governor of Kabul submitted to the Caliphate and became a Muslim c812/15. The Caliphate struck east from Kashmir, but were held off by the Tibetans. In the meantime, the Uyghur Khaganate attacked Tibet.
Tritsu Detsen/ Ralpacan (815-38) Tritsu Detsen (Khri gtsug lde brtsan), best known as Ralpacan, is important to Tibetan Buddhists as one of the 3 Dharma Kings who brought Buddhism to Tibet. He was a generous supporter of Buddhism and invited craftsmen, scholars and translators from neighbouring countries. He promoted the development of written Tibetan and translations, aided by the development of a detailed Sanskrit-Tibetan lexicon called the Mahavyutpatti which included Tibetan equivalents for thousands of Sanskrit terms. After successful Tibetan raids into Chinese territory, Buddhists in both countries sought mediation. Ralpacan was murdered by two pro-Bön ministers who placed his anti-Buddhist brother, Langdarma, on the throne. Tibet continued to be a Central Asian empire until the mid-9th century.
The bilingual text of peace treaty inscribed on Tang-Tibetan alliance stele, Jokhang temple.
It was under the reign of Ralpacan that the political power of Tibet was at its greatest extent, stretching as far as Mongolia and Bengal, and entering into treaties with China on a mutual basis. A Sino-Tibetan treaty was agreed in 821/822 under Ralpacan, and a bilingual account of this treaty is inscribed on a stone pillar which stands outside the Jokhang temple in Lhasa.
Tri Uidumtsaen/ Langdarma (838-42) The reign of Langdarma, regal title Tri Uidumtsaen, was plagued by external troubles. The Uyghur state to the north collapsed under pressure from the Kyrgyz in 840, and many displaced people fled to Tibet. Langdarma was assassinated, apparently by a Buddhist hermit, in 842. A civil war over the succession led to the collapse of the Tibetan Empire. The period that followed, known traditionally as the Era of Fragmentation, was dominated by rebellions against the remnants of imperial Tibet and the rise of regional warlords.

Era of Fragmentation 9th-10th C
Upon the death of Langdarma, there was a controversy over whether he would be succeeded by his alleged heir Yumtän, or by another son (or nephew) Ösung (either 843–905 or 847–885). A civil war ensued, which effectively ended centralised Tibetan administration until the Sa-skya period. Ösung's allies managed to keep Lhasa, and Yumtän was forced to Yalung, where he established a separate line of kings. In 910, the tombs of the emperors were defiled. The son of Ösung was Pälkhortsän (865–895 or 893–923). The latter apparently maintained control over much of central Tibet for a time, and sired two sons, Trashi Tsentsän and Thrikhyiding/Kyide Nyigön. Thrikhyiding migrated to the western Tibetan region of upper Ngari and married a woman of high central Tibetan nobility, with whom he founded a local dynasty. After the breakup of the Tibetan empire in 842, Nyima-Gon, a representative of the ancient Tibetan royal house, founded the first Ladakh dynasty. Kyide Nyigön's eldest son became ruler of the Mar-yul Ladakh region, and his two younger sons ruled western Tibet, founding the Kingdom of Guge and Pu-hrang. At a later period the king of Guge's eldest son, Kor-re, also called Jangchub Yeshe-Ö, became a Buddhist monk. He sent young scholars to Kashmir for training and invited Atisha to Tibet in 1040, thus ushering in the Chidar phase of Buddhism in Tibet. The younger son, Srong-nge, administered day-to-day governmental affairs and it was his sons who carried on the royal line. The dissolution of a centralised empire allowed Tibetan peasants, dissatisfied with the political turmoil, to rebel against regional governments. This split imperial Tibet into a multitude of separate, autonomous king-doms, each ruled by a local warlord who constantly fought for political dominance, utilising private armies and military fortresses. Between 842-1247, no central authority was in control of Tibet. The period ended with the Mongol conquest of Tibet and subsequent Yuan rule of Tibet.

Buddhism in Tibet
Traditional accounts of the period focus on religion. The Era of Fragmentation was a low point in Tibetan Buddhism, with the Buddhist monastic order facing persecution and exile. Monastic Buddhism only persevered in Amdo, then largely dominated by non-Tibetans. During the reign of Langdarma, three monks fled to Mt. Dantig in Amdo. Their disciple Muzu Selbar, later known as Gongpa Rapsel, was responsible for the renewal of Buddhism in Tibet. The students of Rapsal returned to Ü-Tsang, and re-introduced monastic Buddhism. Modern historians argue that Buddhism was in fact widespread during the period, and that regional political authorities shared a close relationship with Buddhist monastic leaders. The late 10th/ 11th century saw a revival of Buddhism in Tibet coinciding with the discoveries of "hidden treasures" (terma). Muzu Saelbar/ Gongpa Rabsal (832–915) is counted as the progenitor of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. In the west, Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055) was an active translator and founded temples/ monasteries. Prominent scholars and teachers were invited from India. In 1042 Atisa (982-1054) arrived in Tibet at the invitation of a west Tibetan king. This expert of the Pāla form of Buddhism from the Indian university of Vikramashila moved to central Tibet where his chief disciple, Dromtonpa founded Kadampa school of Tibetan Buddhism, under whose influence the New Translation schools evolved. The Sakya (Grey Earth) school was founded by Khön Könchok Gyelpo (1034–1102), a disciple of the Lotsawa, Drogmi Shākya. It is headed by the Sakya Trizin, traces its lineage to the mahasiddha Virūpa, and represents scholarly tradition. A guru, Sakya Pandita (1182–1251), was the great-grandson of Khön Könchok Gyelpo. Other Indian teachers were Tilopa (988–1069) and his student Naropa (d1040). The Kagyu (Lineage of the (Buddha's) Word), is an oral tradition concerned with the experiential dimension of meditation, most famously by Milarepa, an 11th-century mystic. It contains a major and minor subsect. The first, Dagpo Kagyu, encompasses Kagyu schools that trace back to Indian guru Naropa via Marpa Lotsawa, Milarepa and Gampopa.

Mongol Conquest / Yuan Rule 1240-1354
During this era, the region was dominated by the Sakya lama (Sakya school or sect) with Mongol support, hence the Sakya dynasty. The first documented contact between Tibetans and the Mongols occurred when the missionary Tsang-pa Dung-khur and 6 disciples met Genghis Khan. Closer contacts ensued when the Mongols sought to move through the Sino-Tibetan borderlands to attack the Jin dynasty and the Southern Song.
270_potala-palace-lhasa_46662999002_o.jpgThe Mongols invaded Tibet in 1240 with a small campaign led by Mongol general Doorda Darkhan but the Mongols withdrew from Tibet in 1241, as all the Mongol princes were recalled back to Mongolia in preparation for the appointment of a successor to Ögedei Khan. They returned in 1244, when Köten delivered an ultimatum, summoning the abbot of Sakya to be his personal chaplain. Sakya Pau'dita took almost 3 years to obey the summons and arrive in Kokonor in 1246, and met Prince Köten in Lanzhou the following year. The Mongols appointed Sakya Pa!"ita as Viceroy of Central Tibet in 1249. Tibet was incorporated into the Mongol Empire, retaining nominal power over religious and regional political affairs, while the Mongols had administrative rule over the region. Within the branch of the Mongol Empire in China known as the Yuan dynasty, Tibet was managed by the Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan
Affairs (Xuanzheng Yuan). One of the department's purposes was to select a dpon-chen, usually appointed by the Sakya lama and confirmed by the Yuan emperor in Beijing. In 1253, Drogön Chögyal Phagpa (1253–1280) succeeded Sakya Pandita at the Mongol court. Phagpa became a religious teacher to Kublai Khan who appointed him Imperial Preceptor (originally State Preceptor) in 1260, the year when he became Khagan. Phagpa developed the priest-patron concept that characterised Tibeto-Mongolian relations from that point forward. With the support of Kublai Khan, Phagpa established himself and his sect as the pre-eminent political power in Tibet. In 1265, Chögyal Phagpa returned to Tibet and for the first time made an attempt to impose Sakya hegemony with the appointment of Shakya Bzang-po (a long time ally of the Sakyas) as the dpon-chen ('great administrator') over Tibet in 1267. By the end of the century, Western Tibet lay under the effective control of imperial officials (almost certainly Tibetans) dependent on the 'Great Administrator', while the kingdoms of Guge and Pu-ran retained their internal autonomy. The Sakya hegemony over Tibet continued into the middle of the 14th century, although it was challenged by a revolt of the Drikung Kagyu sect with the assistance of Duwa Khan of the Chagatai Khanate in 1285. The revolt was suppressed in 1290 when the Sakyas and eastern Mongols burned Drikung Monastery and killed 10,000 people. Between 1346-54, towards the end of the Yuan dynasty, the House of Pagmodru toppled the Sakya. The rule over Tibet by a succession of Sakya lamas came to a definite end in 1358, when central Tibet came under control of the Kagyu sect. 1358-1435 was a period of relative stability which saw the birth of the Gelugpa school (aka Yellow Hats) by the disciples of Tsongkhapa Lobsang Dragpa, and the founding of the Ganden, Drepung, and Sera Gelugpa monasteries near Lhasa. After the 1430s, the country entered another period of internal power struggles.

Posted by PetersF 07:39 Archived in China Tagged buddhism tibet lhasa sera norbulingka drepung Comments (0)

Lhasa Potala and Jokhang

butter lamps, shrines and Buddhism; Barkhor, yaks and dancing

View Himalayas on PetersF's travel map.

September 30th Lhasa, Tibet
After an interesting breakfast (very much a Chinese/ Tibetan one) consisting of, for us, the Tibetan version of porridge, we took our meds (mainly diamox) and set off for the morning tour of the Potala Palace. Our guide had taken our passports the previous day to get our timed tickets.

Potala Palace, named after Mount Potala, originally the abode of Chenresig or Avalokitesvara, is now a museum. The site was used as a meditation retreat by King Songtsen Gampo, who in 637 built the palace to greet his bride Princess Wen Cheng of the Tang dynasty (618-907) of China. Lozang Gyatso, the famous 5th Lama, started the construction of Potala Palace in 1645 after a spiritual adviser, Konchog Chophel, pointed out the site was ideal as a seat of government, situated between Drepung and Sera monasteries and the old city of Lhasa. Potala Palace is the highest ancient palace in the world and is named after a holy hill in South India, meaning in Sanskrit "Abode of the Avalokitesvara (Buddha of Mercy)." Legend has it that in the 7th century, to greet Princess Wen Cheng, King Songtsen Gampo built a 9-storey palace with 1000 rooms up on Red Hill and named it Potala. The palace was mainly made of stones and woods, and decorated with special local willow branches called Baima Grass. Later, with the collapse of the dynasty, the ancient palace was almost destroyed in wars. What we now see is the architecture of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and continuous extensions since the 17th c. Potala Palace is a symbol of the cultural and economic communication of Tibet and the Tang Court. Now, with high historical value, the palace is very important to China. The Palace is composed of 2 parts, the Red Palace as the centre and the White Palace as two wings.

Red Palace (Potrang Marpo) is the central and highest part and devoted to religious study and Buddhist prayer. It was painted to red to represent stateliness and power. It consists of a complicated layout of different halls, chapels and libraries on many levels with an array of smaller galleries and winding passages including the Great West Hall, Dharma Cave, Saint's Chapel, Tomb of the 13th Dalai Lama etc. The 725 m2 Great West Hall is the largest hall, with beautiful murals painted on its inner walls. Around the Great West Hall are 3 chapels; East chapel, North chapel and South chapel. Dharma Cave and Saint's Chapel are the only two remaining constructions of the 7th century, with statues of Songtsen Gampo, Princess Wen Cheng, and Princess Bhrikuti inside.
549109a0-bbb8-11eb-bd48-87dd2e4def8b.pngWhite Palace (Potrang Karpo) once served as the office of Tibet’s local government and the living quarters of the Dalai Lama. Its wall was painted white to convey peace and quiet. The Great East Hall on the fourth floor, occupying a space of 717 m2, was the site for important religious and political events. The fifth and sixth floors were the living quarters and offices of the regents while the seventh floor, the top one, is the living quarters consisting of two parts named the East Chamber of Sunshine and West Chamber of Sunshine due to the plentiful sunshine Potala Palace enjoys. Annexes include the School of Buddhist Logic, seminary, printing House, gardens, courtyards and even the jail. Travel Tips
1. The route is set; use the east entrance, and queue for their time at the stone steps.
2. The visit is limited to 1 hour.
3. No liquid is allowed from outside. Water can be purchased at a cost of CNY10 for one bottle at the top.
4. Don't wear a hat or sunglasses; don’t step on the doorsill.

History of the Potala
Marpo Ri, the 130m high “Red Hill”, which commands a view of all of Lhasa, was the site of King Songtsen Gampo’s palace during the mid 7th century, long before the construction of today’s Potala. There is little to indicate what this palace looked like, but it’s clear that royal precedent was a major factor in the 5th Dalai Lama’s choice of this site when he decided to move the seat of his Gelugpa government from Drepung Monastery. Work began first of the White Palace (Kharpo Podrang) in 1645. The 9-storey structure was completed 3 years later and in 1649 the 5th Dalai Lama moved to his new residence. However, the circumstances surrounding the construction of the larger Red Palace (Marpo Podrang) are subject to some dispute. It is agreed that the 5th Dalai Lama died in 1682 and that his death was concealed until the completion of the Red Palace 12 years late. In some accounts, the work was initiated by the regents who governed Tibet 1679-1703, and that the foundations were laid in 1690 (ie after his death). In other accounts the Red Palace was conceived by the 5th Dalai Lama as a funerary chorten and work was well underway by the time of his death. In any event his death was not announced until he was put to rest in the newly completed Red Palace. There is scholarly debate concerning the Potala’s name. The most probable explanation is that it dervies from the Tibetan name for Chenresig’s ‘pure land’ (paradise), known as Potala. Given that Songtsen Gampo and the Dalai Lamas are believed to be reincarnations of Chenresig this connection is compelling. Since its construction the Potala has been the home of each successive dalai lama, although since construction of the Norbulingka summer palace in the late 18th century, it served as a winter residence only. It was also the seat of the Tibetan government, and with chapels, schools, jails and even tombs for the Dalai Lamas, it was virtually a self contained world. The Potala was shelled briefly during the 1959 popular uprising against the Chinese, but the damage was not extensive. The Potala was spared again during the Cultural Revolution, reportedly at the insistence of Zhou Enlai, the Chinese premier, who is said to have deployed his own troops to protect it. The Potala was reopened to the public in 1980. A quota system is in place to manage the volumes of tourists and pilgrims. Our guide had to go to the office at the southwest gate the day before with passports to get a reservation slip with time slot for the next day, as only 2800 people can visit on a day (limited to 1 hour inside the palace itself).
Around the larger site:
! Shöl village- nestled at the southern foot of Marpo Ri (Shöl means ‘at the base’), the former village of Shöl was once Lhasa’s red light district and the location of a prison, printing press and ancillary government buildings. The reconstructed buildings include a pub and a medieval torture chamber. Give it a miss!
! Treasures of Potala Exhibition- This new exhibition hall was really worth the visit; inc a stunning 15th century Vajradhara mandala and fine 3rd floor ritual implements including the largest key we've seen
! Deyang Shar (courtyard). Entry to the Potala is up 2 steep access ramps that we took carefully in the oxygen starved air. View from first flight of steps above. The stairs lead past the ticket office to the large Deyang Shar, the external courtyard of the White palace. At the top of the triple stairs leading to the White Palace, the golden handprints of the 5th Dalai Lama were on the wall to the our left. Murals to the north depicted Songtsen’s original Potala, the construction of the Jokhang and transfer of the Jowo Sakyamuni statue there. Originally 22 horse-skin drums were beaten here to mark the evening closure of the Potala’s gates.

54883000-bbb8-11eb-80a1-7324be1a2224.pngWhite Palace
Having zig-zagged up the stairs we arrived at the first courtyard outside the White Palace; went through the first set of rooms and came to the top (actually a roof). We headed right for the private quarters of the 13th and 14th Dalai Lama, who would have watched festival dances performed in the courtyard below from the hidden balconies of these personal chambers.
The first room we came to was the throne room (Simchung Nyiwoi Shar), where the Dalai Lama received official guests. The large picture on the left of the the throne room is of the 13th Dalai Lama; the matching photo of the 14th Dalai Lama has been removed. There were some fine murals here, including one of the Chinese Buddhist mountain Wutai Shan and the mythical paradise of Shambala on either side of his entry; and a depiction of Bodhgaya (where Buddha achieved enlightenment) at the far exit.
The trail continued clockwise into the reception hall (Dhaklen Paldseg). Next came the meditation room, which still displays the ritual implements of the present Dalai Lama on a small table to the side of the room. Protector gods here included Nagpo Chenpo (Mahakala), the Nechung oracle and Palden Lhamo. The final room, the study of the Dalai Lama (Chimey Namgyal) has some personal effects of his on show, such as his bedside clock, The mural above the seat is of Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelugpa order of which the Dalai Lama is the head. The small door leads into the Dalai Lama’s bedroom.
East section White Palace; watchtower west section 1675 monks living quarters Namgyal Dratsang (1 hall reserved Oracle Tanma)
White Palace courtyard by Desi Sonam Rabden 17th Century
Senior Seminary on the east side of the eastern courtyard by the 7th Dalai Lama in 1754 to train monk as officials; “Prosperity gate” to the White Palace carved with the 8 Auspicious Symbols and 7 lions (representative of the 7 Royal Emblems). The tablet above the gate reads Gate of Prosperity in Sanskrit and Tibetan characters. Eastern Audience Hall of the White Palace. aka Chapel of Fulfillment. From 1650 all celebrations/ religious ceremonies were held in his hall. The tablet above throne was given by Qing Emperor Tongzhi in 1867 and reads Blessing of Abundance Lights all directions.
The Portal of the White Palace leads to the upper part of the White palace. The 4 columns and 8 beams are carved with a tiger, garuda, lion, dragon, and 8 Medicine Gods; West Sunshine Hall aka Meritorious Hall, used for the daily prayers, chapel and bedchamber of the Dalai Lama; Dalai Lama study or Chamber of Eternal Life

Red Palace
After leaving the White Palace we continued on up into the Red Palace. The tour of the main building starts from the top and descends through the bowels to the exit on the ground floor. The gilded Buddhas, intricate mandalas and towering funeral stupas we passed en route rank were highlights of the Potala.
Third Floor
Oddly (but mainly because you start from the roof), you begin the Red Palace from the Third Floor. The first room was the Chapel of Jampa (Jamkhang) which contained an exquisite image of Jampa (Maitreya/ Future Buddha, commissioned by the 8th Dalai Lama; it stands opposite the Dalai Lama’s throne. To the right of the throne, in the corner, is a wooden Kalachakra mandala. The walls are stacked with the collected works of Tsongkhapa and the 5th Dalai Lama. The chapel was unfortunately damaged in a fire in 1984 and many valuable thangkas were lost.f5a60670-c6de-11eb-ab43-ab0d39007b95.pngf60823a0-c6de-11eb-9fc7-87039e97b163.png
Jampa; Mandala of Tantric deity Guhya Samaja (erected 1749)
Continuing clockwise (of course) was the Chapel of Three-dimensional Mandalas (Loilang khang) which housed the spectacular jewel encrusted mandalas of the 3 principal Tantric deities of the Gelugpa sect. These are essentially 3-d versions of the mandalas you see painted on thangkas and act as mediation maps for the mind. The Chapel of the Victory over the Three Worlds (Sasum Namgyal) housed a library and displays of Manchu texts. The main statue is a golden 1000-armed Chenresig, while the main thangka is of the Manchu emperor Qianlong dressed in monks robes, with accompanying inscriptions in Tibetan, Chinese, Mongolian and Manchurian. Next was the Chapel of Immortal Happiness (Chimey Dedan Kyil), once the residence of the 6th Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso, whose throne remains, now dedicated to Tsepame (Buddha of Longevity) by the window.
Chenresig (Chapel of Victory); Tomb of 13th Dalai Lama; Image in Lamo Lhakhang
Next to him, in the corner, was the the Dzogchen deity Ekajati (Tsechigma) with an ostrich feather hat and a single fang. The Chapel of the Stupa of the 13th Dalai Lama came next, followed by, in the northwest corner, the Lamo Lhakhang and the Golden Tomb of the 7th Dalai Lama (Serdung Tashi Obar Khang) aka Stupa of Auspicious Light, constructed in 1757 and encased in 1/2 tonne of gold. To the right stands a statue of Kalsang Gyatso, the 7th Dalai Lama.
In the northwest corner, steps led up into the small but very important Chapel of Arya Lokeshvara (Phagpa Lhakhang). Allegedly this is one of the few corners of the Potala that dates from the time of Songtsen Gampo’s 7th century palace. It is the most sacred of Potala’s chapels and the sandalwood image of Arya Lokeshvara inside is the most revered image in the Potala. The statue is accompanied on the left by the 7th Dalai Lama and Tsongkhapa, and on the right by the 5th, 8th and 9th Dalai Lamas. The chapel, as it dates a long way back, is quite undulating on the floor, partly due to ground movements, but mainly due to centuries of pilgrims feet!
Relics include stone footprints of Guru Rinpoche and Tsongkhapa. The last 2 rooms on this floor were the towering jewel-encrusted tombs of the 8th and 9th Dalai Lamas, the former built in 1805 and over 9m tall. The corridors are beautifully decorated here- note the rows of lions over the lintels.
Corridors and 8th Dalai Lama Stupa of Merciful Light and 9th Dalai Lama Stupa of Happiness of the Three Realms.
From here we went down the wooden staits to access the second floor. We took advantage of the reception hall in the middle of the 2nd floor with seating and bought our amazing Potala book (which we collected later).

Second Floor
The first chapel on the 2nd floor is the Chapel of Kalachakra (DukhorLhaklang), aka the Wheel of Time, noted for its stunning 3-d mandala, over 6m in diameter and finely detailed with over 170 statues. Then it was the first Chapel of Sakyamuni (Thubwang Lhakhang), which housed a library, the throne of the 7th Dalai Lama (photo on next page), 8 bodhisattvas and some fine gold painted calligraphy. Tibetan or umê script wa traditionally invented by Thonmi Sambhota, a minister of Songtsen Gampo, c600 AD.
e9615bc0-c6ee-11eb-b2f9-a17b95c33041.pngBased on Indian scripts it is an alphabetic one, where symbols (letters) correspond to sounds (like our own, but different from Chinese logograms)
In the Chapel of Nine Buddhas of Longevity (Tsepap Lhakhang), we noticed the murals by the left window; the left side depicted the interesting lama Tangtong Gyelpo (15th century) who built iron bridges, as well as being a medic and the inventor of Tibetan opera, often shown white haired and his celebrated bridge (now destroyed) over the Yarlung Tsangpo near Chushul. The images of coracle rafts halfway up the wall add a nice touch. There are 9 statues of Tsepame here, as well as a green and white Drölma. The 2nd Chapel of Sakyamuni / Zegya Lhakhang was closed for restoration, but our guide said it was of less interest. We continued along the beautifully decorated corridor towards the northwest corner. Although busy, we still had a great view. Whilst we waited D pointed out the different clothes and hair styles of Tibetans from different areas. It is considered a religious duty to make kora in Lhasa (especially the Jokhang and Potala) at least once.
Throne of 7th Dalai Lama, Corridor Mural
We continued to the northwestern corner to access a small corridor that lead to King Songtsen Gampo’s Meditation Chamber (Chogyal Drupuk), which along with the Chapel of Arya Lokeshvara, is one of the oldest rooms in the Potala. The most important statue in here is of Songtsen Gampo himself, to the left of the pillar. To his left is his minister Tonmi Sambhota (inventor of the Tibetan script) and to his right his Chinese and Nepali wives. A statue of his Tibetan wife, Mongsa Tricham (the only one to have a son), is in a cabinet by the door. The 5th Dalai Lama lurks behind (and also on) the central pillar, and Gar Tsongtsen, the Tibetan PM (and Songtsen’s right hand man) who travelled to the Tang court to escort Princess Wencheng to Tibet. The dark (over time and with many yak-butter lamps) beams and furnishings gave a cave-like look to the rooms and they are also referred to as the Cave of Chogyal.
Statue Songtsen Gampo; Thonmai Sambota, KhongTsan, Prince Khongru, Kong Sontsen Gampo; bottom- 3 princesses from left Tristsun, Mongsa Tricahm (holding Prince Khongru), Wencheng
The last 3 rooms on the 2nd floor are interlinked and chock full of 3000 pieces of statuary (and pilgrims), many donated by a Khampa business man in 1995.
First Floor
The first floor was shut to visitors.
Ground Floor
This floor, which we accessed last, was covered with beautiful murals that told the story of both Tibet and the Potala Palace. To complement this were sets of beautiful embroidered thangka depicting various kings, deities and religious people. Below is a selection of these.
The Royal Palace is built- 7th C King Songtsen Gampo builds a palace on Red Hill and the queen's palace on Iron Hill; Spirits send favours to the palace; The 5th Dalai Lama’s tomb is erected; Annual festival; To celebrate the palace completion Tibetan, Han, and Mongolians take part in their traditional games
As we rounded the steps to the ground floor of the Red Palace (so we were still a long way up), we entered the magnificent Western assembly hall (aka Chapel of Fulfillment), which is the largest hall in the Potala, and its physical centre. We noted the fine carved pillar heads. The large throne that dominates one end of the hall was the throne of the 6th Dalai Lama, Tsanyang Gyatso. Four important chapels framed the hall.
The first is the Chapel of Lamrim. Lamrim means ‘graduated path’ and refers to the graduated stages that mark the path to enlightenment. The central figure is Tsongkhapa, with whom lamrim texts are usually associated. Outside the chapel, to the left, a fine mural of the Forbidden City commemorated the 5th Dalai Lama’s visit to the court of Emperor Shunzhi in 1652.
The next chapel, the long Rigzin Lhakhang, is dedicated to the eight Indian teachers (gurus) who brought tantric practises and rituals to Tibet. The central figure is a silver statue of Guru Rinpoche (one of the 8), flanked by his consorts Mandarava and Yeshe Tsogyel (turquoise headdress), as well as statues of the 8 teachers to the left and a further 8 statues of him in different manifestations on the right.
In the west wing of the assembly hall a highlight of the Potala, is the awe inspiring Chapel of the Dalai Lamas Tombs (Serdung Zamling Gyenjikhang), dominated by the huge 12.6m high chorten of the great 5th Dalai Lama, gilded with 3.7kg of gold and covered with precious stones. Flanking it are 2 smaller chortens containing the 10th and 12th Dalai Lamas, who both died as children. Richly embossed, the chortens represent the concentrated wealth of an entire nation. One of the precious stones is a pearl said to have been discovered in an elephant’s brain and thus, in a brilliant understatement, ‘considered a rarity’. Eight other chortens represent the 8 major events in the life of Buddha.
The 8 Great Stupa: Lotus Blossom (Sugata stupa); Enlightenment (Stupa of the Conquest/ Mara); Stupa of Many Doors; Stupa of Miracles/ Conquest.
Stupa of Descent from God Realm; Stupa Complete Victory; Nirvana stupa

Stupa-tombs of Dalai Lamas
5th DL A Gem of Jambudvipa. a relic of Buddha and tooth of Tsong Khapa housed within; 10th DL Superior Jewel of the 3 Realms; 12th DL Light of Longevity; Famous White Stupa on the Red Hill
9th DL Happiness of Three Realms; 11th DL Light of Well Being; 13th DL Wish Fulfilling Virtue

The Chapel of the Holy Born (Trungrab Lhakhang) has in its corner the statue and chorten of the 11th Dalai Lama, who died at 17. There are also statues of the eight medicine buddhas with their characteristic blue hair, a central golden Sakyamuni and 5th Dalai Lama (silver), a Chenresig, Songtsen Gampo, Dromtönpa (founder of the Kadampa sect) and the first 4 Dalai Lamas.
10th, 11th and 12th Dalai Lamas (died young)

Potala Kora: the pilgrim path that encircles the foot of the Potala made a nice walk; it took us about 1⁄2 hour. From the large western chorten (formerly the city’s west gate), we followed the prayer wheels to the northwest corner, with its 3 large chortens. The northeast corner had several rock paintings and a prayer hall with chanting nuns. Just past here I span a large prayer wheel of the rebuilt Phurbu Chok Mani Lhakhang, past the Chinese style square. We passed 3 18th century doring (stele); 2 on the north to victory over the Central Asian Dzungars (1721) and Nepali Gorkhas (1788/ 1791). King Trisong Detsen is said to have erected the single southern obelisk in the 8th century.

Tibetan Independence 14th-18th C
With the decline of the Yuan dynasty, Central Tibet was ruled by successive families 14th-17th c. Tibet was de facto independent from mid- 14th century for nearly 400 years. In spite of the weakening of central authority, the neighbouring Ming Dynasty of China made little effort to impose direct rule, although it made nominal claims to Tibetan territory by establishing the U-Tsang Regional Military Commission and Do-Kham Regional Military Commission in 1370s. They kept friendly relations with some Buddhist religious leaders known as Princes of Dharma and granted some other titles to local leaders including the Grand Imperial Tutor.
Phagmodru(pa) Dynasty (ཕག་མོ་གྲུ་པ་) was a dynastic regime that held sway over Tibet from 1354-early 17th c. It was established by Tai Situ Changchub Gyaltsen of the Lang family at the end of the Yuan dynasty. The dynasty had a lasting importance on the history of Tibet; it created an autonomous kingdom after Mongol rule, revitalised Tibetan culture, and brought about a new legislation that survived until the 1950s. Nevertheless, the Phagmodrupa had a turbulent history due to internal family feuding and strong localism among noble lineages and fiefs. Its power receded after 1435 and was reduced to Ü (East Central Tibet) in the 16th century due to the rise of the ministerial family of the Rinpungpa. It was defeated by the rival Tsangpa dynasty in 1613, and was formally superseded by the Ganden Phodrang regime founded by the 5th Dalai Lama in 1642. In that year, Güshi Khan of the Khoshut formally transferred the old possessions of Sakya, Rinpung and Phagmodrupa to the "Great Fifth”. The monastic principality Phagmodru ("sow's ferry crossing"), which was founded as a hermitage in 1158 by the famous scholar Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo (Kagyu school/sect) was situated in Nêdong district southeast of Lhasa. After his death in 1170, his disciples organised a monastery, called Dansa Thil 1198. Phagmodru evolved into a large and wealthy estate around the monastery, which was governed by members of the Lang family. They maintained a variant of the Dagpo Kagyu school of Buddhism known as Phagdru Kagyu. The area had already been associated with the Lang (Rlang) family, and with the waning of Ilkhanate influence it was ruled by this family, within the Mongol- Sakya framework headed by the Mongol appointed Pönchen (Dpon chen) at Sakya. When Mongol rule was imposed on Tibet in the mid-13th century, Phagmodru became an appanage under Hülegü Khan (1251), forming one of the 13 myriarchies (divisions) of Central Tibet. The areas under Lang administration were encroached upon in the late 13th/ early 14th c.
Jangchub Gyaltsän (1302–64) saw these encroachments as illegal and sought the restoration of Phagmodru lands after his appointment as the Myriarch in 1322. After prolonged legal struggles, the struggle became violent when Phagmodru was attacked by its neighbours in 1346. Jangchub Gyaltsän was arrested and released in 1347. When he later refused to appear for trial, his domains were attacked by the Pönchen in 1348. Janchung Gyaltsän was able to defend Phagmodru, and had military successes, until by 1351 he was the strongest political figure in the country. Military hostilities ended in 1354 with Jangchub Gyaltsän as the unquestioned victor, who established the Phagmodrupa Dynasty in that year. He continued to rule central Tibet until his death in 1364, although he left all Mongol institutions in place as a formality. As Mongol ruler Toghon Temür had local troubles he preferred to confirm the acquisitions of Changchub Gyaltsen and conferred the titles darakache and tai situ (grand tutor) on him. Yuan control was waning in Tibet. The Sakya regime, centered in Tsang (West Central Tibet) had hitherto wielded power over Tibet on behalf of the Mongols. However, Tai Situ Changchub Gyaltsen superseded Sakya in the period 1354–1358, recreating an autonomous Tibetan state. Power remained in the hands of the Phagmodru family until 1434. The rule of Jangchub Gyaltsän and his successors saw a new cultural self-awareness of the ancient Tibetan Kingdom. During this period reformist scholar Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) founded the Gelug sect which would have a decisive influence on Tibet's history. In 1372 the Hongwu Emperor conferred the title Guanding Guoshi on Changchub Gyaltsen's successor Jamyang Shakya Gyaltsen (1364–1373) together with a jade seal. The first rulers were lamas who did not marry, and the succession up to 1481 went via collateral kinsmen. The dynasty was divided into 3 branches or functionaries: the ruling desi, the spiritual masters (chen-nga) of the Dansa Thil and Tsethang monasteries, and the preserver of the family (dunggyu dsinpa) who sired children to continue the Lang lineage. While the first 4 rulers declined to take royal titles, being content with desi, the 5th ruler Drakpa Gyaltsen (1385-1432) appropriated the royal titles gongma (high one, superior) and chogyal. From 1354- 1435 the rulers managed to uphold a balance between the various fiefs. The early Phagmodrupa era was culturally productive, and been termed a "golden age". There was an intense interest in reviving the glories of the ancient Tibetan kingdom, and many supposedly ancient texts were "rediscovered". The monasteries gained increasing influence on the life of the Tibetans. This period included the work of the Buddhist reformer Je Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelug sect, and his younger kinsman Gedun Drub, posthumously counted as the 1st Dalai Lama.
1. Tai Situ Changchub Gyaltsen (1354–1364)
2. Desi Shakya Gyaltsen (1364–1373) nephew (with uncle abbot Jamyang Shakya Gyaltsen as regent)
3. Desi Drakpa Changchub (1373–1381) nephew
4. Desi Sonam Drakpa (1381–1385) brother
5. Gongma Drakpa Gyaltsen (1385–1432) cousin
6. Gongma Drakpa Jungne (1432–1445) nephew
At length the Phagmodrupa were crippled by internal dissent in the Lang family. A brief civil war in 1434 weakened their position. Powerful feudatories took the opportunity to increase their power, in particular the Rinpungpa family who came to dominate Tsang. In 1481 one of their line, Donyo Dorje, managed to have king Kunga Lekpa (1448–81) deposed. The Rinpungpa tended to associate with the Karmapa sect of Buddhism while the Phagmodrupa favoured the rival Gelug sect. In the political landscape at this period it was important for rulers to find alliances with powerful monasteries and sects. Kunga Lekpa's grandnephew Ngawang Tashi Drakpa (1499-1554, 1556–1564) pushed the Rinpungpa from the Lhasa area in 1517/8. He was the last effective king of the dynasty, keeping good relations with the 2nd and 3rd Dalai Lamas, but his influence was mainly restricted to Ü. As he grew old, infighting beset the family, and his death in 1564 was followed by a long interregnum until his grandson Ngawang Drakpa Gyaltsen was placed on the increasingly hollow throne in 1576. Though largely powerless, he maintained some importance as a focal point around whom the various noble and clerical factions of Tibet balanced. At the same time a new powerful dynasty, the Tsangpa (1565–1642), arose in Tsang who overthrew the Rinpungpa and increased their territory in Tibet. Like the Rinpungpa they allied with the Karmapa sect. The history of the Phagmodrupa after the death of Ngawang Drakpa Gyaltsen in 1603/04 is obscure as they were eclipsed by other political factions. They were defeated by the Tsangpa in 1613 and 1620, and the final incumbent expelled from Lhasa in 1635. After his victory over the Tsangpa in 1642, the 5th Dalai Lama maintained friendly relations with the last titular lord of the line. Some years after the latter's death in 1671, Nêdong was given to an outsider and the Lang family lapsed into obscurity.
7. Gongma Kunga Lekpa (1448–1481) brother
8. Gongma Ngagi Wangpo (1481–1491) nephew
9. Tsokye Dorje (1491–1499) regent from the Rinpungpa line
10. Gongma Ngawang Tashi Drakpa (1499–1554, 1556/57–1564) son of Gongma Ngagi Wangpo
11. Gongma Drowai Gonpo (1524–1548) son
12. Gongma Ngawang Drakpa (1554–1556/57, 1576–1603/04) son
13. Mipham Wanggyur Gyalpo (1604–1613) grandnephew (?)
14. Mipham Sonam Wangchuk Drakpa Namgyal Palzang (d.1671, r.1613) grandson Ngawang Drakpa Gyaltsen

Rinpungpa ཪིན་སྤུངས་པ་ Tibetan regime dominated Western Tibet and Ü-Tsang 1435-1565. During the period around 1500 the Rinpungpa lords came close to having the Tibetan lands around the Yarlung Tsangpo River under one authority, but their powers receded after 1512. The Rinpungpa belonged to the Ger clan, which traced back to the days of the Tibetan Empire. One of their line, Namkha Gyaltsen, served as nanglon (minister of internal affairs) under Phagmodrupa ruler Jamyang Shakya Gyaltsen. He was appointed dzongpon (governor) of the fief Rinpung in Rong, a region in Tsang c1373. His political position was strengthened by his marriage to Phagmodrupa princess Sönam Palmö. Their daughter was later married to Phagmodrupa prince Sangye Gyaltsen, and gave birth to the later ruler Drakpa Jungne (1432- 45). The son of Namkha Gyaltsen was Namkha Gyalpo who took over the Rinpung estate. He was succeeded in 1413 by his young son Norzang (1435-66), a strong personality who expanded the fortunes of the family on a Tibet-wide level. He increased his control over territories in Shang, Tag, Ling and Kyur and was the patron of the Jamchen Monastery, founded 1427. The Rinpungpa took advantage of a family feud within the Phagmodrupa Dynasty in 1434. Norzang seized Samdrubtse (Shigatse) from the governor of the Chonggye family in 1435 or 1446. Samdrubtse was a strategic spot and key to power over Tsang. Norzang expanded his influence over Tsang, Rong and Shang. His kinsman, Phagmodrupa king Kunga Lekpa (1448-81) was born from a Rinpung princess and in turn married a Rinpungpa. He was not able to stop the advances of his powerful vassal. Norzang married Kunga Lekpa's sister, furthering the elaborated net of kinship ties between the two families. While still acknowledging the Phagmodrupa, the Rinpungpa subsequently built up a strong position, bearing the title desi (regent). The increasing importance of the Buddhist sects in this period made it crucial for secular rulers to seek support from religious networks. The Rinpungpa became patrons of the Karma Kagyu school, which was sometimes opposed to the Gelugpa. However, early Rinpungpa lords supported other sects such as Sakya. After the death of Norzang in 1466 the fortunes of the Rinpungpa took a downturn for a while under his obscure son Kunzang (1466-c79). He was succeeded by his son Donyo Dorje(c1479-1512), a powerful figure. While pursuing an aggressive policy to achieve domination over Central Tibet, he was also a religious patron, sponsoring the foundation of Yangpachen Monastery for the Shamarpa hierarch of the Karma Kagyu sect. His policy towards the Phagmodrupa was one of confrontation. King Kunga Lekpa lived in a conflict-ridden marriage with the Rinpung princess. Donyo Dorje eventually invaded the central domain in 1480 and Kunga Lekpa was forced to abdicate in favour of a nephew, a relative non-entity. The Rinpungpa proceeded to defeat various regional lords and increase their power. In 1485 they attacked the important estate Gyangtse and captured the lord of Yung. In 1491 Donyo Dorje’s uncle Tsokye Dorje took power as regent in the Phagmodrupa seat Nêdong (1491–99) during the minority of the heir Ngawang Tashi Drakpa. The years around 1500 saw the high tide of Rinpungpa power, and the authority of Donyo Dorje was almost absolute, supported by the Karmapa and Shamarpa hierarchs. In 1499 the important kingdom of Guge in Ngari (West Tibet) acknowledged Rinpungpa. Due to pressure from the Rinpungpa, who favoured the Karma Kagyu, the Gelugpa school were forbidden to participate in the great Monlam ceremony in Lhasa 1498- 1517. After the deaths of the powerful princes Tsokye Dorje (1510) and Donyo Dorje (1512), however, the power of the Rinpungpa declined. In spite of Rinpungpa patronage the hierarchs of the Karma Kagyu, Karmapa and Shamarpa, were adverse to being closely controlled by the secular lords and strove to re-establish Phagmodrupa rule. In the early 16th c Ngawang Tashi Drakpa of Phagmodrupa managed to regain a degree of influence, pushing out the new Rinpung lords Zilnonpa and Ngawang Namgyal (1512-44), a grandson of Norzang, from Lhasa. He was friendly to the Gelugpa leader Gedun Gyatso (posthumous 2nd Dalai Lama), which at this stage did not exclude relations with the Karma Kagyu. The direct power of Rinpungpa in Ü (East Central Tibet) was henceforth limited. An agreement between the factions of Ü and Tsang was reached in 1518. The nominal head of the Rinpungpa, the boy Zilnonpa, asked the king for investiture as dzongpon, which was given. In fact the Rinpungpa continued to wield power over Tsang. The following decades under Dondup Tseten Dorje (1544-?) were marked by a confusing succession of clashes and temporary reconciliations. The waning of Rinpungpa power was marked by an abortive invasion of the Mangyül Gungthang kingdom in West Tibet in 1555. In 1557 a retainer of the Rinpungpa, Karma Tseten, governor of Shigatse, rebelled. In 1565 the cultivated Rinpungpa ruler Ngawang Jigme Drakpa (?-1565) brother of Dondup, was defeated by Karma Tseten, who founded the new Tsangpa Dynasty which would rule Central Tibet to 1642. The Rinpungpa survived in their heartland Rong and periodically tried to revive their fortune. They staged an abortive attack on Kyishö in Ü in 1575 and quarrelled with the Tsangpa ruler. After the Tsang-Rong war of 1589 their power was exhausted, and they were forced to capitulate in 1590. Local Rinpungpa princes are known up to the early 17th century.

Tsangpa གཙང་པ dynasty dominated large parts of Tibet 1565-1642, the last Tibetan royal dynasty to rule in own name. The regime was founded by Karma Tseten (1565–99), a low-born retainer of the Rinpungpa Dynasty and governor of Shigatse. During the 16th c Tibet was fragmented among rival factions, along religious as well as dynastic lines. The Phagmodrupa Dynasty lost any semblance of power after 1564 and its rival Rinpungpa was also unable to achieve unity. Among the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, the Karma Kagyu school competed against the Gelug (headed by the Dalai Lama). Karma Tseten raised the standard of rebellion in 1557 and defeated the Rinpungpa in 1565, facilitated by simmering discontent with the Rinpungpa among several vassals. Known as the Depa Tsangpa or Tsang Desi, he became king of Upper Tsang and allied with Köncho Yenlak, the 5th Shamarpa of the Karma Kagyu. Wangchuk Dorje, 9th Karmapa Lama, met him on several occasions and transferred tutelary deities, a ritually important act to legitimise the new regime. Karma Tseten also patronised the Nyingma, Sakya and Jonang sects. The rise of the dynasty should be seen against the anxiety of outside intervention in a deeply divided country. The alliance between the 3rd Dalai Lama and Altan Khan (1578) aroused the fear of aristocratic families in Ü-Tsang and of non-Gelug schools. This motivated the Karmapa (title of the head of the Kagyu sect) to seek protection with the Tsangpa rulers. The new dynasty strove to keep Tibet free from Mongol incursions in the late 16th/ early 17th c. The last remains of Rinpungpa authority vanished in 1590 as they were forced to capitulate their heartland Rong to Karma Tseten. Sources from this period are mainly concerned with religious affairs and do not disclose much about the Tsangpa. The basis of their power is still insufficiently understood, and nor is the history of Karma Tseten's closest successors well known (Khunpang Lhawang Dorje c1582 1605 older son, Karma Thutob Namgyal c1586-1610, younger son), but in the early 17th century the dynasty is frequently mentioned as a competitor for power over Tibet. The family was generally opposed to the Gelugpa/ Dalai Lamas, whose power was increasing in Ü. The Tsangpa ruler Karma Tensung (1599-1611), brother of Karma Thutob Namgyal, (or nephew Karma Phuntsok Namgyal) reacted by invading Ü in 1605 and attacking Drepung and Sera Gelugpa Monasteries. 5,000 monks are said to have been massacred. The Tsangpa army expelled the Mongol troops that assisted the 4th Dalai Lama, himself a Mongol prince by birth. The Dalai Lama fled and the Tsangpa ruler was close to becoming king of Tibet. He was less successful against Bhutan, where his enemy, Ngawang Namgyal, prince-abbot of Ralung Monastery in Tsang and one of the reincarnations of 4th Gyalwang, Drukpa Kunkhyen Pema Karpo (Drukpa Lineage), had taken refuge. In 1618, the Tsangpa Gyelpo pushed further into Ü and defeated the local leaders of Kyishö and Tsal. By now Karma Phuntsok Namgyal (1611-20), son of Karma Thutob Namgyal, was virtually the ruler of Central Tibet and was consecrated as such by Chöying Dorje, 10th Karmapa. In 1619, the West Tibetan kingdom of Mangyül Gungthang was conquered and Karma Phuntsok Namgyal returned to Ü in order to eliminate the last possible obstacle to his authority. Nêdong, seat of the impotent Phagmodrupa Dynasty, was besieged and forced to yield. Tsang forces occupied the entire Yarlung Valley. The hegemony of Tsangpa was, however, brief. Their position as an upstart family without aristocratic roots made their authority tenuous. After 4th Dalai Lama Yonten Gyatso's death, his successor, the 5th Dalai Lama (1617–82), received help from the Mongols, who pushed into Ü in 1621. The new Tsangpa king Karma Tenkyong (1620-42), son of Karma Phuntsok Namgyal, was defeated and besieged at Chakpori Hill by Lhasa, and his army only escaped annihilation through the intervention of the Panchen Lama. An agreement was made whereby the Gelugpa regained their authority in Ü. The abbot of the important Drigung Monastery in Ü, allied to the Tsangpa, was abducted by the Tumed Mongols in 1623. In retaliation Karma Tenkyong brought his troops to Ü and occupied the Lhasa region. Karma Tenkyong sought the assistance of the Choghtu Mongols, whose prince Arsalan invaded Tibet in 1635 to attack the Gelugpa positions.
Tibetan Autumn colours
However, Arsalan declined to support the Tsangpa, leading to an unsatisfactory conclusion for Karma Tenkyong and the Karmapa and Shamarpa hierarchs. In 1641 Güshi Khan, leader of the Khoshut Mongols, attacked the king of Beri in Kham (a practitioner of the Bon religion who persecuted Buddhist lamas). After defeating Beri, he invaded Tsang, saying they were eradicating the Gelugpa. The Dalai Lama was opposed to a Mongol invasion which would have devastating effects on Central Tibet. The Tsangpa stronghold, Shigatse, was captured after a long and bloody siege in 1642. Karma Tenkyong was taken prisoner and kept in custody near Lhasa. After a revolt by Tsangpa supporters, Güshi Khan ordered Karma Tenkyong placed in an oxhide bag and drowned in a river. Güshi Khan presented Ü, Tsang and East Tibet to the Dalai Lama to rule. In this way began the religious Ganden Phodrang regime that would last until 1950.

Ganden Phodrang 17/18th C
The Ganden Phodrang was the Tibetan regime/ government established by the 5th Dalai Lama with the help of Güshi Khan of the Khoshut in 1642. Lhasa became the capital of Tibet in the beginning of this period, with all temporal power conferred to the 5th Dalai Lama by Güshi Khan in Shigatse. The rise of the Dalai Lama is intimately connected with the military power of Mongolian clans. Altan Khan, king of the Tümed Mongols, invited Sonam Gyatso, head of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism (later the 3rd Dalai Lama), to Mongolia in 1569 and 1578. Sonam Gyatso publicly announced he was a reincarnation of the Tibetan Sakya monk Drogön Chögyal Phagpa (1235–80) who had converted Kublai Khan, that Altan Khan was a reincarnation of Kublai Khan (1215–94), and that they had come together to cooperate in propagating the Buddhist religion. While this did not immediately lead to a massive conversion of Mongols to Buddhism (this happened in 1630s), it did lead to the widespread use of Buddhist ideology for the legitimation of power among the Mongol nobility. Altan designated Sonam Gyatso as "Dalai" (a translation into Mongolian of the name Gyatso, meaning "ocean"). As a result, Sonam Gyatso became Dalai Lama. Since this title was also posthumously given to Gendun Drup and Gendun Gyatso (considered Sonam Gyatso's previous incarnations), Sonam Gyatso became the 3rd Dalai Lama. Below- 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Dalai Lamas.
1st Gedun Drupa (1391–1474) considered posthumously the 1st Dalai Lama. He founded the major monastery of Tashilhunpo at Shigatse, which later became the seat of the Panchen Lamas (2nd only to the Dalai Lama).
2nd Gendun Gyatso Palzangpo 1475–1542 posthumous 2nd Dalai Lama. Legend has it that soon after he learned to speak, he said his name was Pema Dorje, (birth name of Gendun Drup) and his father was Lobsang Drakpa Tsongkapa (founder of the Gelug school c1390, half Mongolian, half Tibetan). When he was 4, he told his parents he wished to live in the Tashilhunpo monastery (next to Shigatse and founded in 1447 by Gendun Drup) to be with his monks. He was proclaimed the reincarnation of Gendun Drup as a young boy.
3rd Sonam Gyatso, head of Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism (later the 3rd Dalai Lama), claimed to be Gendun Drup and Gendun Gyatso’s reincarnation.
4th Yonten Gyatso (1589–1616), 4th Dalai Lama and non-Tibetan, the grandson of Altan Khan. He died in 1616 in his mid-twenties. Some people say he was poisoned but there is no real evidence one way or the other.
5th Lobsang Gyatso (1617–1682) “Great” 5th Dalai Lama, the first Dalai Lama to wield political power over Tibet. His regent Sonam Rapten unified the Tibetan heartland under the control of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, after defeating rival Kagyu and Jonang sects and the secular ruler, the Tsangpa prince, in a civil war. His efforts were successful in part because of help from Güshi Khan, leader of the Khoshut Khanate. Sonam Rapten, being a fanatical and militant proponent of Gelugpa, persecuted the other schools. However, before leaving Tibet for China in 1652 the Dalai Lama issued a proclamation banning sectarian policies and ordered their reversal. The 5th Dalai Lama and his intimates, especially Sonam Rapten (until his death in 1658), established a civil administration referred to by historians as Lhasa state or Ganden Phodrang. In 1652, the 5th Dalai Lama visited the Shunzhi Emperor (Qing dynasty). He initiated the construction of Potala Palace, and moved the government there from Drepung. The death of the fifth Dalai Lama in 1682 was kept hidden for 15 years by his assistant, confidant, Desi Sangye Gyatso.
6th Tsangyang Gyatso (1683–1706) 6th Dalai Lama. He was a Monpa by ethnicity. born at Urgelling Monastery, India. Although the 5th Dalai Lama had died in 1682, the Regent Desi Sangye Gyatso kept his death a secret to continue the stable administration. Monks searched Tibet to find the next incarnation, but concluded that 6th Dalai Lama was born outside Tibet in a valley whose name ended with "ling". He had grown up a youth of high intelligence, fond of pleasure, alcohol and women, and later led a playboy lifestyle. As a Dalai Lama, Tsangyang often went against the principles of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism. For example, he decided to give vows to Lobsang Yeshe, 5th Panchen Lama at 18 instead of the normal age. The Panchen Lama, who was the abbot of Tashilhunpo Monastery, and Prince Lhazang, the younger brother of the Po Gyalpo Wangyal, persuaded him not to do so. He visited the 5th Panchen Lama in Shigatse and renounced the vows of a novice monk. He ordered the building of the Tromzikhang palace in Barkhor, Lhasa. Tsangyang Gyatso rejected life as a monk, although this did not mean the abdication of his position as Dalai Lama. Wearing normal clothes and preferring to walk than ride a horse or use the state palanquin, Tsangyang only kept the temporal prerogatives of the Dalai Lama. He visited the parks and spent nights in the streets of Lhasa, drinking wine, singing and having relations with girls. Tsangyang lived in a tent in the park near Potala Palace. He disappeared near Qinghai, possibly murdered, on his way to Beijing in 1706.
Religious Gate "Enlightenment" to Red Palace columns and beams carved with 5 objects of senses and images Buddhe. tablet reads Path to Perfect Spiritual Enlightenment; The 6th Dalai Lama composed poems and songs that have become popular in modern Tibet, and all across China.
7th Kelzang Gyatso (1708–1757) 7th Dalai Lama. Kelzang Gyatso was born in Eastern Tibet. At that time, the Dalai Lama's throne in Lhasa was occupied by Ngawang Yeshey Gyatso, who had been installed by Lha-bzang Khan as "the real 6th Dalai Lama" in place of Tsangyang Gyatso. Ngawang Yeshey Gyatso still held this position (though most Tibetans did not consider him the legitimate Dalai Lama) while a monk at Litang monastery, where he channelled Nechung Oracle, identifying Kelzang Gyatso as the reincarnation of Tsangyang Gyatso. Since this presented a contradiction of Lha-bzang Khan's choice, it was potentially dangerous to the child. Subsequently, the Tibetan leader of a delegation from Lhasa confirmed that the child was Tsangyang Gyatso's reincarnation and he was quietly taken to Litang monastery for protection. In 1715, the Kangxi Emperor sponsored Kelzang Gyatso's entrance into Kumbum Monastery. This entrance was marked by formal ceremonies due to a Dalai Lama and thus signified a public challenge to Lha-bzang Khan's Dalai Lama. He was ordained by Ngawang Lobsang Tenpai Gyaltsen. His reign started when he was 12.
Sacred mountains behind Lhasa- site of sky burials.
8th Jamphel Gyatso (1758–1804) 8th Dalai Lama. Born in 1758 in Upper Ü-Tsang region of Tibet his parents were originally from Kham. He was escorted to Lhasa and enthroned as leader of the Tibetan people in Potala Palace when he was 5. He built Norbulingka Park and Summer Palace in 1783 on the outskirts of Lhasa.
9th Lungtok Gyatso (1805–15) 9th Dalai Lama. He was the only Dalai Lama to die in childhood and was first of a string of 4 Dalai Lamas to die before reaching 22. During the period of the short-lived Dalai Lamas (9th-12th incarnations), the Panchen lama filled the void left by the four Dalai Lamas who died in their youth.
10th Tsultrim Gyatso (1816–37) 10th Dalai Lama. After Lungtok Gyatso died in 1815, eight years passed before the new Dalai Lama was chosen. The politics are murky, but finally Palden Tenpai Nyima intervened and used the Golden Urn (from which names of candidates were picked) for the first time as part of the tests for the choice of the new Dalai Lama. In 1822 the 10th Dalai Lama was placed upon the Golden Throne. He reconstructed Potala Palace and set about overhauling the economic structure of Tibet but, unfortunately, died soon after.
11th Khedrup Gyatso (1838–56) 11th Dalai Lama. He was recognised as Dalai Lama in 1840, having come from the same village as Kelzang Gyatso, 7th Dalai Lama. During his life, wars over Ladakh weakened the lamas' power over the Tibetan Plateau. The First and Second Opium Wars and Taiping Rebellion weakened Chinese influence on Tibet. In the last years of his reign the Nepalese invaded Tibet, but were defeated in the Nepalese Tibetan War (1855–1856). He died suddenly in Potala Palace.
12th Trinley Gyatso (1857–75), 12th Dalai Lama. His short life coincided with major political unrest among Tibet's neighbours. Tibet suffered from the weakening of the Qing Dynasty which had previously provided it with support against the British Empire. Tibet banned Europeans from entering the country because of wars Britain was fighting against Sikkim and Bhutan, both of whom were controlled to a considerable degree by the lamas in Lhasa. These wars were seen as efforts to colonise Tibet, something unacceptable to the lamas. Trinley Gyatso was enthroned as Dalai Lama 1873 but could not stamp his full authority on Tibet because he died of a mysterious illness 1875.
2 long bokchak of tiger skin pattern velvet hung on both sides main entrance DL chambers to symbolise power/ prestige
13th Thubten Gyatso (1876–1933) 13th Dalai Lama. In 1878 he was recognised as the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. He was escorted to Lhasa and given pre-novice vows by the Panchen Lama, Tenpai Wangchuk, and enthroned at Potala Palace, but did not assume political power until 1895. Thubten Gyatso was an intellectual reformer and skillful politician. He countered the British expedition to Tibet, restored discipline in monastic life, and increased the number of lay officials to avoid excessive power being placed in the hands of the monks.
14th Tenzin Gyatso (1935-) 14th current Dalai Lama of the Gelug school, the newest school of Tibetan Buddhism, formally headed by the Ganden Tripas. From the time of the 5th Dalai Lama to 1959, the central government of Tibet, the Ganden Phodrang, invested the position of Dalai Lama with temporal duties. The 14th Dalai Lama was born in Tibet, and was selected as the tulku (reincarnation) of the Dalai Lama in 1937. His enthronement ceremony was held in Lhasa 1940, and he assumed full temporal (political) duties 1950, at the age of 15, after the People's Republic of China's incorporation of Tibet. The Gelug school's government administered an area roughly corresponding to the Tibet Autonomous Region just as the nascent PRC wished to assert control over it. During the 1959 Tibetan uprising, the Dalai Lama fled to India.
An interesting note; not only is the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama reborn, but so are their teachers. In theory they are reborn in different generations, so an older man can “teach” the younger one and he can learn about his former life. This was tricky at the time of the short lived Dalai Lama, but did work for the current one.

We went down, down, down, to leave the Potala complex, and had a reasonable view of the interesting Lhasa Zhol Pillar, which dates c764 AD and is inscribed with the oldest known example of Tibetan writing. The pillar contains dedications to a famous Tibetan general and an account of his services to the king inc campaigns against China which culminated in the brief capture of the Chinese capital Chang'an (Xi’an) in 763 when the Tibetans temporarily installed as Emperor a relative of Princess Jincheng Gongzhu (Kim-sheng Kong co), the Chinese wife of Trisong Detsen's father, Me Agtsom.
db8adee0-bbb8-11eb-a607-c7364b7cce25.pngChakpori/Chagpori Hill (Yao Wang Shan) Rising up beside Potala Palace, the spired peak of Chakpori Hill (Yao Wang Shan) is 3,725 m high. Looking over to the winding path to the top, one can see figures of Buddha, gods in different poses, and Buddhist scripture in Tibetan characters engraved on the cliff. There is a well preserved grotto with a history of over a thousand years on the southeast mountainside. There are 69 stone statues engraved on the rock. At the north foot of the Chakpori Hill is a spring named "Holy Water". During the middle of 17th century, in the early Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), a temple was erected on top of the Chakpori Hill. In this temple was placed a sapphire figure of a Tibetan Medicine King. Legend has it he was the avatar of Sakyamuni, able to treat patients no matter what the disease or how difficult the cure.

Also visible from the Potala is the Monument to the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet 2002 (51st anniversary 17-point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet). The 37-m concrete monument is shaped as an abstract Mt Everest and its name engraved with the calligraphy of former president Jiang Zemin, while an inscription describes the developments in Tibet in the past 50 years.

It had been a long morning, so we headed back to Barkhor to find somewhere for lunch. D recommended Lhasa kitchen and although the service was VERY slow it was tasty. S ordered some weird naan type thing, which he quickly regretted as it had sweet sour yoghurty stuff on.
Then it was a few minutes walk to Bharkhor Square to visit Jokhang Temple.

Jokhang Temple (Tsuglagkhang) is a fusion of Tang dynasty (618-907), Tibetan and Nepali styles and is the ultimate pilgrimage destination for Tibetan Pilgrims. The Tang Dynasty was characterised by economic prosperity and great progress in politics. China was considered the cultural and political centre of the world, and King Songtsem Gampo (617–50, 33rd king of Tibet/Tubo) wanted to develop friendly relations. He married Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal and Princess Wen Cheng of the Tang Dynasty. When the two wives arrived there, each brought a statue of Jowo Sakyamuni (alternative name of Buddha, he was part of the Shakya clan). During this time, most people lived in tents and there were few palaces. To house the Buddha brought by Princess Wen Cheng, Songtsem Gampo constructed Little Jokhang (Ramoche). Princess Bhrikuti asked Gampo to build a Jokhang for her Buddha (Mikyoba Akshabhya) as well and in 647 the giant complex was built. The original complex included 8 shrines. After multiple renovations, most notably during the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368), Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the complex grew to today’s scale. The temple has been enlarged many times over the centuries and now houses statues of King Songtsan Gambo and his two famous foreign brides. However, the original statue of Jowo Sakyamuni Buddha that Princess Wen Cheng brought from Chang’an over 1300 years ago is definitely its most sacred and famous possession, and the most venerated religious artefact in Tibet. It was moved from Ramoche for its protection, and hidden in the Jokhang by Queen Wencheng. The image has remained in the Jokhang ever since (Jokhang or Jowokhang means chapel of the Jowo). The temple, a splendid 4-floor building facing west under a gilded rooftop, is on Barkhor Square in the centre of old Lhasa. Standing in Bharkhor square, one can view the entire complex. On the square there are two stele, one recording an alliance between the king of Tibet and the Tang emperor, the other portraying the teaching of the local people to prevent and treat smallpox. In the eastern section of the yard there are rows of votive lights, which provide a path leading all the way to the main hall. The main hall, over 1,300 years old, is the oldest shrine of the complex. Above the major entrance, there is a Dharma Wheel (chakra) flanked by 2 deer. This represents the unity of all things and symbolises Sakyamuni himself. On both sides of the passageway, paintings showing the building of Jokhang Temple, and renderings from the 7th century are adorned on the wall. The statue of Sakyamuni at age 12 sits in the middle of the hall. It has been gilded many times and decorated elaborately with jewels typical of Tibet. Statues of Songtsem Gampo, Princess Wen Cheng and Princess Bhrikuti are on the 2nd floor. On the top floor, there are four gilded bronze tile tops crafted in the emblematical Tang style. The statue of Sakyamuni is a rare treasure. When he was alive, he disagreed with 'personal worship' and did not allow likenesses of himself to be created. Only 3 statues, designed by himself, were permitted to be sculpted during his life-time. The first is a likeness of him at age 8; the 2nd at age 12 as a prince of India; and a 3rd as an adult. The statue in the Jokhang Temple is the statue at age 12.
1. Main gate
2. Kyamra Chenmo courtyard
3. Namtar Gosum Lhakhang (Buddha of Infinite Light)
4. Lutsang courtyard
5. Lutsang Gate
6. Chotrikhang
7. Drolma Lhakhang gate
8. Drolma Lhakhang
9. Nangkor
10. Sera Tago Khangsar
11. Sera Tago
12. Gate
13. Kitchen
14. Odepug gate
15. Ngakhang gate
16. Ngakhang complex (Chapel of 9 Buddhas of Longevity Tsepame; Chapel of 7 Buddhas)
17. Sungchora gate
18. Sungchora throne
19. Shira courtyard
20. Kitchen
21. Storage
22. Shira gate
23. Willow tree
24. Sin-Tibetan stele
25. Garage
26. Meru Nyingpa
A. 4 Guardian Kings
The Jokhang is also known in Tibetan as the Tsuglhakhang (chinese, Dazhao Si), the most revered religious structure in Tibet. Thick with the smell of yak butter, the murmur of mantras and shuffling of wide-eyed pilgrims, the Jokhang is an unrivalled Tibetan experience. For Tibetans the city’s 3 koras (pilgrimage circuits) are Nangkhor, Barkhor and Lingkhor, holding the key to the city’s soul. Remember- clockwise!

Jokhang Temple was built on the site of Lake Wothang. According to legend, the site was chosen after many failed attempts to build a temple; every time a monastery was built, it would collapse. Princess Bhrikuti turned to Princess Wen Cheng for help, who advised they must fill and level the lake using 1,000 goats to carry soil from a mountain far away. Princess Wencheng chose Lake Wothang (perhaps because she was upset at living in ‘barbarian’ Tibet). When the construction work was done, it was called Ra-Sa-Vphrul-Snang ('ra'= goat and 'sa'= earth in Tibetan, and etymologically associated with Lha-sa) to commemorate those goats. A well in the precincts of the Jokhang is said to still draws its water from the old lake. A sacred white goat soon entered the legend! We found a small image of the goat (a natural part of the stone and you need the torchlight to shine the exact right way, but belief is everything) peeking out from the Chapel of Jampa on the south wall of Jokhang’s ground floor inner sanctum. Whether the legend is true or not, Jokhang Temple brought Buddhism into Tibet and became an inseparable part of Tibetan history and culture. The city of Ra-Sa grew around the temple and over time, become known as Lhasa, holy land.

Exterior front
A wall encloses the front of the complex. The stumps of willows, contained within the enclosure, were planted by Queen Wen Ching at the time of its consecration. The willows are known as the Jowo Utra (‘Hair of the Jowo’). In front of the entrance to the Jokhang is a forecourt that is perpetually crowded with pilgrims polishing the flagstones with their protrations. Two doring (inscribed pillars) outside the temple, flanking its north and south entrances, are worshiped by Tibetans. The first monument, dated March 1794 was an edict known as the "Forever Following Tablet", and records advice on hygiene to prevent smallpox; some parts have been chiselled out by Tibetans who believed that the stone itself had curative powers. The second, far older, pillar is 5.5 metres high with a crown in the shape of a palace and an inscription dated 821 or 822. The "Tang Dynasty Tubo Peace Alliance Tablet" has an inscription in Tibetan and Chinese. It is a treaty between the Tibetan king Ralpacan and the Chinese emperor Muzong delineating the boundary between their countries. This Sino-Tibetan treaty reads, "Tibet and China shall abide by the frontiers of which they are now in occupation. All to the east is the country of Great China; and all to the west is, without question, the country of Great Tibet. Henceforth on neither side shall there be waging of war nor seizing of territory. If any person incurs suspicion he shall be arrested; his business shall be inquired into and he shall be escorted back”.

Ground Floor
We entered through the side gate to the open Shira Courtyard. It was through the far left corner (to ensure clockwise kora) that we entered the main temple. Just inside this entrance were statues of the Four Guardian Kings (Chokyong), 2 on each side. Beyond this was the main dkhang (assembly hall), a paved courtyard open to the elements, and during festivals this is the focus of ceremonies. The throne on the left wall was formerly used by the Dalai Lama.
Shira Courtyard and Assembly Hall
From here we took the left clockwise route round the inner prayer hall of the Jokhang which houses some important images and chapels. Most prominent are 6 larger-than-life statues that dominate the central prayer hall. In the foreground and to the left is a 6m statue of Guru Rinpoche. The statue to the right is of Jampa (Maitreya), the Future Buddha, with an ornate crown. At the centre of the hall, between and to the rear of these 2 statues, is a 1000-armed Chenresig (Avalokiteshvara). At the far right are 2 more Jampa statues, one behind the other, and to the far rear (you see it later), is another statue of Guru Rinpoche encased in a cabinet. Encircling this enclosed area of statues is a collection of chapels, which Tibetan pilgrims visit in a clockwise direction. Although there was a queue for the popular Chapel of Jowo Sakyamuni, we waited until we could enter. Pilgrims rub the doorways, walls, chain mail curtains, touch their heads to revered statues, throw seeds as offerings and pour molten yak butter into the heat of a 1000 prayer lamps. The chapels, following a clockwise route:-

Tsongkhapa was the founder of the Gelugpa order and he was seated in the centre of the Chapel of Tsongkhapa and His Disciples (1), flanked by his 8 disciples. Just outside was the large Tagba chorten. The 8 medicine Buddhas in the Chapel of the Eight Medicine Buddhas (2) are recent. The Chapel of Chenresig (3) contains Jokhang’s most imortant image after the Jowo Sakyamuni. Legend says the statue of Chenresig sprang spontaneously into being and combines aspects of King Songtsen Gampo, his wives and 2 wrathful protective deities. The doors of the chapel, fashioned by Newari artisans, are among the few remnants still visible of the Jokhang’s 7th century origins. This and the next 4 chapels are the most popular and all had queues.
Chenresig from Chapel 3
In the Chapel of Jampa (4) were statues of Jampa and 4 smaller bodhisattvas; Jampelyang (Manjushri), Chenresig (left), Chana Dorje (Vajrapani) and Drölma (Tara). Öpagme (Amitabha) and Tsongkhapa were also present, and 2 chortens, one of which holds the remains of the original sculptor. The image of Tsongkhapa is the Chapel of Tsongkhapa (5) was commissioned by the subject and said to be a perfect resemblance (central image on top of the steps of the wooden alcove).
The Chapel of the Buddha of Infinite Light (6) is the 2nd of the chapels consecrated to Öpagme (Amitabha), the Buddha of Infinite Light. The outer entrance, with wonderful carved doors, is protected by 2 fierce deities, red Tamdrin (Hayagriva, right) and blue Chana Dorje (Vajrapani, left). There are also statues of the 8 bodhisattvas. Pilgrims here pray for the elimination of impediments before viewing the most sacred image of the Jokhang, that of Jowo Sakyamuni, in the next chapel. On leaving, to our right were statues of King Songtsen Gampo with his 2 wives, and Guru Rinpoche (at the back).
The most important shrine in Tibet, the Chapel of Jowo Sakyamuni (7) houses the image of Sakyamuni Buddha at the age of 12, brought to Tibet by Princess Wencheng. We entered via an anteroom containing the Four Guardian Kings, smiling (left) and frowning (right). Inside are
statues of protectors Miyoma (Achala) and Chana Dorje (Vajrapani, blue). Several large bells hung from the anteroom’s Newari-style roof. The carved door has been rubbed smooth by generations of pilgrims. The 1.5m statue of Sakyamuni is embedded with precious stones, covered in silk and jewellery and surrounded by silver pillars with dragon motifs. The silver canopy above was financed by a Mongolian Khan. Pilgrims touched their forehead to the statue’s left leg before being tapped on the back by a monk to move on. To the rear of Sakyamuni are statues of the 7th and 13th (moustache) Dalai Lamas, Tsongkhapa and 12 standing bodhisattvas. We had the 7th century pillars pointed out to us on the way out.
The Jampa (Maitreya or Future Buddha) enshrined in the Chapel of Jampa (8) is a replica of a statue that came to Tibet as part of the dowry if Princess Bhrikuti. Around the statue are 8 images of Drölma, a goddess seen as an embodiment of the enlightened mind of Buddhahood and one who protects against the 8 fears (hence the 8 statues). There are some fine door carvings here. On exiting we were surprised to see statues of the Hindu gods Indra and Brahma, though we could not find an explanation as to why!
In the Chapel of Chenresig Riding a Lion (9), the statue of Chenresig on the back of a sengye (snow lion) is first on the left (not the largest of the icons). Most of the other statues are aspects of Chenresig. Continuing upstairs, we spotted a small hole in the wall on the left, against which pilgrims place their ear to hear either the beating wings of a mythical bird or the lapping waters of Lake Wothang on which the Jokhang was built (we tried but it was too noisy to be certain).
Guru Rinpoche Shrine (10) contains 2 statues of Guru Rinpoche and 1 of King Trisong Detsen next to the stairs. Beside the shrine is a self-arising golden rock painting of the medicine buddha protected by a glass plate. Inside Tsepame Chapel (11) are 9 statues of Tsepame (Amitayus), the red Buddha of Longevity, in yabyum (sexual and spiritual union) pose. The Chapel of Jamba (12) holds the Jamba statue that was traditionally borne around the Barkhor on the 25th day of the first lunar month for the Mönlan festival. This yearly excursion was designed to hasten the arrival of the future Buddha. Jampelyang and Chenresig flank the Buddha. The chapel is also named Ramo Gyalmo (Chapel of the Sacred Goat) after the rough ‘self-arising’ (ie not human made) image of the goat emerging from the wall in the first corner beside Zhambhala, the god of wealth.
13th Dalai Lama
The Chapel of the Hidden Jowo (13) is where Princess Wencheng is said to have hidden the Jowo Sakyamuni for safe keeping after the death of her husband and the ensuing anti-Buddhism backlash; we saw the cavity on the eastern wall. Inside now is a statue of Öpagme (Amitabha) and the eight medicine buddhas with typical blue hair. The last of the ground floor chapels is Chapel of the Kings (14), with original statues of Tibet’s earliest kings. The central figure is Songtsen Gampo, flanked by Trisong Detsen and Ralpachen. Pilgrims touch their heads to the central pillar. On the wall outside was a mural of the original construction of the Jokhang and the Potala, alongside performances of Tibetan opera, yak dances, wrestling, stone weightlifting and horse racing.

First Floor
At this point we returned (clockwise) to the rear of the ground floor to climb the stairs to the upper floor. This inner sanctum is ringed with chapels. We passed several newly restored rooms that feature Sakyamuni (15,18), accompanied by his 2 main disciples and one with the Eight Medicine Buddhas (17). Lamrin Chapel (16), SE corner, features Pabonka Rinpoche, Sakyamuni Tsongkhapa and Atisha (Jowo-je).In the SW corner is Chapel of the Five Protectors (19) with fearsome statues of Tamdrin (Hayagriva) and other protector deities.
Next is the Chapel of the Three Kings (29), to Songtsen Gampo, Trisong Detsen and Tri Ralpachen. It also contains statues of Songtsen’s 2 wives, various ministers and symbols of royalty such as the elephant and horse on either side.
Songtsen Gambo, Princess Wencheng, Princess Bhrikuti
The Chapel of Songtsen Gampo (21), was the principal Songtsen chapel in the Jokhang, positioned in the centre of the west wall (directly above the entry to the ground floor inner sanctum). A bejewelled king with a tiny Buddha protruding from his turban is accompanied by his Nepali wife to the left and Chinese wife to the right. Most of the other rooms were hidden behind grills, except the meditation cell of Chapel of Songtsen Gampo (22), which has an incredible carved doorway smeared with decades of yak butter. Murals to the right depict the Jokhang near an unusual row of carved beams that look like lion-monkey creatures. Back by the stairs notice the curved door frames of the Chapel of Guru Rinpoche (23) and Chapel of Samvara (24) showing Samvara with consort, both 7th century. In the south east corner, we went up a mezzanine to see 2 statues of the protectress Palden Lhamo, one wrathful (frog-faced), the other benign and a photo of the Nechung oracle. You can gain access to the Tantric Chapel on the 2nd floor from here.
We were then on the roof with stunning view over Barkhor Sq. The orange building on the north side once held the private quarters of the Dalai Lama. We finished with a walk around the Nangkhor pilgrim path which encircles the Jokhang’s inner sanctum, to see Drölma Chapel (25) featuring Drölma flanked by her green and white manifestations and others of her 21 manifestations; and Guru Rinpoche Chapel (26), a series of 3 interconnected shrines stuffed with images of Guru Rinpoche.
1. Secret chamber of auspicious objects
2. Chogyel Lhakhang (Songtsen Gampo chapel)
3. Access gallery
4. 14th C gallery
5. Closed stairs
6. Empty- formerly Jigje Lhakhang
7. Chogyel Zimpuk Lhakhang
8. Jowo Rinpoche chapel
9. Sheyre Lkakhang (note early murals)
10. Guru Tsakye Dorje Tsakhor Lhakhang
11. Staircase (access Pelha chok
12. Tubpa Tsokhor Lhakhang
13. wall

Buddhism takes Tibet
Demoness subduing Temples: Buddhism’s interaction with the pre- existing Bön, a shamanistic folk religion of spirits, ghosts and demons, combined with the wild and inhospitable nature of the Tibetan terrain, has led to many metaphorical fables about Buddhism’s taming of Tibet. The story of the introduction of Buddhism to Tibet is represented by the story of a vast, supine demoness whose body straddled the whole plateau. It was Princess Wencheng who divined the presence of this demoness. Through Chinese geomantic calculations she established that the heart of the demoness lay beneath a lake in the centre of Lhasa, while her torso and limbs lay far away in the outer dominions of the high plateau. The demoness can be seen as a symbol of both the physical hardships of Tibet, and the existing Bön priests hostility towards Buddhism; both had to be tamed before Buddhism could take root. It was decided that the demoness would have to be pinned down. The first task was to drain the lake in Lhasa of its water (ie. life-blood of the demoness) and build a central temple that would replace her heart with a Buddhist heart. The temple built was the Jokhang. A stake through the heart was not enough to put a demon of this size out of action and a series of lesser temples in 3 concentric rings, were conceived to pin down her extremities. There were 4 temples in each ring. The first are known as the runo temples and form a protective circle round Lhasa, pinning down the demoness’ hips and shoulders. Two are Trandruk Monastery (Yarlung Valley) and Katsel Monastery (en route to Drigung). The second group, the tandrul temples, pin down her knees and elbows. Buchu Monastery (Bayi, eastern Tibet) is one of these. The final group, yandrul temples, pin down the hands and feet. These last temples are in Bhutan (Paro and Bumthang), though the exact location is unknown.

We finished with a walk around the magnificent roof of the temple, both for its views and its own architecture.
Barkhor St Market is an area of circular (around Jokhang Temple) narrow streets and a public square in the old part of the city around Jokhang Temple and the most popular devotional circumambulation for pilgrims and locals. It is the oldest street in a very traditional style in Tibet, where you can enjoy bargaining with the local Tibetan vendors for handicrafts. Barkhor Street is one of the most important religious paths along which Buddhist pilgrims walk around Jokhang Temple while turning prayer wheels in their hands. They walk or progress by body-lengths along the street clockwise every day into the night. We entered from Barkhor Sq, and circled the entire Jokhang, the former seat of the State Oracle in Lhasa, Muru Nyingba Monastery, and nobles' houses Tromzikhang and Jamkhang. There were four large incense burners (sangkangs) in the 4 cardinal directions, burning constantly, to please the gods. Varied shops stand on its both sides and thousands of floating stands are on every corner. Most of them offer the prayer wheels, long-sleeve 'chuba' (Tibetan traditional clothes), Tibetan knives, religious articles and 'Thangka' (Tibetan scroll painting), which is a unique art of Tibet with the themes of religion, history, literature, science and customs.

Barkhor kora
Follow the mass of pilgrims, popping into several small but fascinating temples along the route. The first is Mani Lhakhang, a small chapel with an enormous prayer wheel, continuously in motion. To the right was the grandiose entrance of Nangtse Shar, the former city jail. Some 10m south was the entrance to the Jampa Lhakhang (Jamkhang/ Water Blessing Temple pic 3). The ground floor of this small temple had a huge 2-storey statue of Miwang Jamal (Future Buddha), rows of protector gods and a meditation cave. Pilgrims ascending to the upper floor were blessed with a sprinkle of holy water and the touch of a holy dorje (thunderbolt). Continue down the alley following the prayer wheels, into old Meru Nyingba/ma Monastery, a small but active monastery filled with Tibetans. It is administered by Nechung monastery, as it was the Lhasa seat of the oracle. Like the Jokhang, the building dates to the 7th century. On the west side of the courtyard, up narrow stairs, is the small Sakyapa-school Gongkar Chapel. Below is the Zhambhala Lhakhang with a central image of Marmedze (Dipamkara/Past Buddha). In the southeast corner is a wall shrine and dark hen (prayer pole), which marks the place where Tsongkhapa stood in 1409. On the southern side is Gendun Choephel Memorial Hall, a dull museum on an interesting guy! Choephel (1903-51) was a monk, poet, translator, sexologist, Sanskrit scholar and general non-conformist.

Meru Nyingba/ Muru Ningba or is a small Buddhist monastery located between the larger monasteries of Jokhang and Barkhor. It was the Lhasa seat of the former State Oracle who had his main residence at Nechung Monastery. It is located immediately behind and east of the Jokhang and may be accessed from the north side of the Barkhor.

Ramoche Temple (Xiao Zhao Si) is the most important temple in Lhasa after Jokhang. Situated 500m NW of Jokhang (whose companion it was built as), the temple was gutted in the 1960s and its famous bronze statue disappeared. In 1983 the its lower part was found in a Lhasa rubbish tip, and the upper half in Beijing. They have now been joined and the statue rehoused in Ramoche Temple. Following major restoration, the main building now has three stories.
The original complex has strong Tang architectural influences, for it was built by Han Chinese architects in the mid 7th century during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Princess Wencheng took charge of this project and ordered the temple erected facing east to China. Ramoche went through many reconstructions; only the Buddha palace on the first floor is in its original state. The present temple is the result of the large restoration of 1986. The main building has 3 stories. The first storey includes an atrium, scripture hall, and Buddha palace with winding corridors. On entering the main building, see the 10 pillars holding relics such as the encased lotus flowers, coiling cloud, jewellery and Tibetan Characters. The golden peak of the temple with the Han-style upturned eaves can be seen from any direction in Lhasa. One of the temple's prized artefacts was the life-sized statue of the 12-year-old Sakyamuni aka Jowo Rinpoche (now in Jokhang) brought by Wencheng from the Tang Dynasty capital Chang'an. As one of the precious cultural relics of Tibet, the statue is now in Jokhang Temple (Da Zhao Si). Residing instead within Ramoche Monastery is the life-sized statue of the 8-year-old Sakyamuni/ Jowo Mikyöba (Akshobhya) brought to Tibet by the Nepalese Princess Bhrikuti., this figure is regarded as the greatest saint in the monastery. When you leave, a doorway to the right by the yak-butter and juniper-incense stalls leads to the lively nearby Tsepak Lhakhang (Long-Life Shrine), with prayers filling the air. The central image is Tsepame, flanked by Jampa and Sakyamuni. Further on is Gyüme Tratsang, founded mid 15th century as one of Tibet’s foremost Tantric training colleges. The main dukhang has statues of Tsongkhapa, Chenresig and Sakyamuni. Behind the pillars are huge 2-storey statues of Tsongkhapa and his 2 main disciples, and next door is a fearsome statue of Dorje Jigje (Yamantaka). Upstairs is the famous speaking rock image of Drölma. Carrying on for 50m is Meru Sarpa Monastery with a very atmospheric chapel in the northwest corner. Look for the statue of 1000-armed Chenresig, an unusual frog-faced Palden Lhamo, and the preserved jaws of a gharial.

We enjoyed our wander, and our guide (with help from Achut) had arranged a complimentary show and meal (we’d asked about arranging one earlier, but had expected to pay). D collected us at 6:30 and we walked (quite a long way) to a locals place for a glorious meal and brilliant evening of dancing traditional Tibetan dances (most of which she explained) from Lhasa, Amdo and Kham. The shared food format was lovely- all round a traditional cook pot with loads of different meats and vegetables, all traditionally Tibetan. As it was a holiday week lots of children were there with their family; fascinated with our weird hair (blonde) and eyes (blue); one little lad kept coming back trying to speak Chinese to me (because I’m a foreigner and all foreigners speak Chinese, went his logic). It culminated with an interesting yak dance, 2 exuberant men in a yak skin leaping around the restaurant and charging the audience hohos rewarded them by tying white kata on the horns. They seemed all too happy to bury the yak head in my chest. Such fun!!
Tibetan Dance is called Guo-Xue or Guo-Zhuang. Folk dance is common to all Tibetans, with local varieties. “Guozhuo”is the name used in the Amdo regions of Eastern Tibet. One dance (bridging the religious-secular gap) was “laying the flagstones at Drepung“, a dance stylising the laying and yearly cleaning of the polished flagstones of the courtyard of the Dalai Lama’s palace at Drepung. The folk dance style used in Batang is Xiezhou. Men and woman dance face-to-face, to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument. Zhuoxie is another popular folk dance in the Lhasa/ Shannan areas. It is usually performed at ceremonies of blessings and for welcoming guests. While there are many forms of folk dance across Tibet, these three are the most widely used. The Tibetan way of life is reflected in their dance. Perhaps the most characteristic feature is the body’s forward tilt, accompanied by bouncing from the knees. This rhythm accompanies nearly every movement and stems from the daily custom of carrying water long distances from mountainous rivers to homes. Tibetan dance also has the unique trait of extending the arm and leg of one side simultaneously, rather than in the alternating fashion of walking. This harks back to the treacherous climbs in the Himalayas; to more efficiently travel on slanted mountain roads, Tibetan people carry their load on one side of the body to save energy on their daily journeys. Tibetan dances, especially for men, are known for their energy; vigorous jumps and turns performed with the characteristic high-heeled boots. In pastoral Guozhuang, dancers jump while waving their hands in front of their chests and step forward, and then turn left or right, their hands and feet moving in the same direction. The loose, wide trousers of the male dancers look like the feathered legs of eagles, and the men's movements are imitative of creatures, especially eagles spreading wings, hopping, and soaring. Women expose their right arms during dancing, with the right sleeve waggling behind.

Some interesting religious statues
368bd650-bbb9-11eb-a607-c7364b7cce25.pngBuddha Shakyamuni is the historical Buddha, who lived c600 BC. His images have little decoration and show him scantily dressed. The hair is typically blue, and the head surrounded by an enlightenment aura. He is depicted sitting, legs crossed in lotus position and has 32 marks on his body, including a dot between his eyes, the Wheel of Law on the soles of his feet, and a bump on the top of his head. Manifesting the “witness” mudra, he holds a begging bowl in his left hand and touches the earth with his right hand. His two favorite students often flank him on his right and left side.
375f52f0-bbb9-11eb-9292-23bf59558f2e.pngMarmedze (Dipamkara) Past Buddha. Buddhists believe there has been a succession of Buddhas in the past. Buddha of the Present is Sakyamuni Buddha, and Buddha of the Future will be Bodhisattva Maitreya. Dipankara Buddha lived on Earth 100,000 years ago and was mentioned by Shakyamuni Buddha in sutras. Tibetans believe that Dipankara Buddha is one of the Past Buddhas. In Tibetan art, Dipamkara is usually depicted sitting, generally with Shakyamuni and the Maitreya Buddha. These 3 collectively are known as the Buddhas of the Three Times.
384f5840-bbb9-11eb-80a1-7324be1a2224.pngMaitreya Future Buddha According to Buddhism, Maitreya Buddha is the 5th Buddha who will appear in this Kalpa (era). Maitreya is believed to be the Bodhisattva who will appear on Earth in the future, 4000 years after the death of Sakaymuni. He will achieve Nirvana and teach people the pure Dharma. He is usually seated, with a scarf around his waist, his legs hanging down and his hands by his chest in the turning of the Wheel of Law.
37bae070-bbb9-11eb-a607-c7364b7cce25.pngAvalokiteshvara- Bodhisattva of Infinite Compassion, most loved of the bodhisattvas. Through all schools of Mahayana Buddhism, Avalokiteshvara is venerated as the ideal of karuna (the act of compassion and willingness to bear the pain of others). He can appear anywhere, even hell, to help all beings in danger and distress. There are 108 (a sacred number in Tibet) different manifestations of Avalokiteshvara, but the most common is with 11 heads and 1000 arms (called Chenresig). On the palms of each of the 1000 hands is the eye of compassion. Its main distinguishing feature is Amitabha Buddha, pictured in his crown or as the last face at the top of the highest of his 11 heads.
36b53040-bbb9-11eb-9292-23bf59558f2e.pngManjushri– Bodhisattva of Wisdom in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions of Buddhism. He is the bodhisattva associated with wisdom/awareness. In Vajrayana (Tibetan) Buddhism is also the meditational deity (Yidam) of enlightened wisdom. Manjushri normally holds a sword in one hand, to cut off delusion, and Prajnaparamita Wisdom text in the other. Manjushri is a powerful image representing ever-present wisdom with the sword of awareness. In Chinese and Japanese art he rides a lion.
381387c0-bbb9-11eb-9292-23bf59558f2e.pngTara, the female Buddha, aka Jetsun Dolma, is a female Bodhisattva associated with Tibetan Buddhism. She is the “mother of liberation” and represents the virtues of success and achievements. Her most popular forms are the White Tara and Green Tara. One of the main Tara practices in Tibet (and Bhutan) is Praises/ Homage to 21 Tara, practiced in all 4 traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. The Taras differ primarily by their foot placement; white Tara sits in meditation posture, and green Tara’s right foot rests on a small lotus flower. In the white Tara, we can see the open eye of compassion on her fore-head, her palms and her soles. Other symbols are the open white lotus (representing day) or the blue closed lotus (representing night). The hands with palms outwards, point in opposite directions: right one down (giving gesture), and left one up (protection gesture).
382d7860-bbb9-11eb-a607-c7364b7cce25.pngPadmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche), 8th-C master of Buddhist tantra who brought Vajrayana to Tibet/ Bhutan. He is revered as one of the great patriarchs of Tibetan Buddhism and founder of the Nyinmapa tradition. According to Tibetans he is the embodiment of the Dharmakaya. Padmasambhava came from Uddiyana (Swat Valley), to Tibet during the reign of Emperor Trisong Detsen (742-97). He built Samye, the 1st Buddhist monastery in Tibet. Padmasambhava is depicted in 8 aspects; the most common are: sitting in a hat with upturned ear flaps and a spring at the top; with a beard and holding in his left hand a blood-filled skull-cup and in the right the Vajra; with his left elbow holding a magic wand whose tip is a flaming trident. He often appears with Yeshe Tsogyal and Mandareva, his spiritual consorts and disciples.
387f41e0-bbb9-11eb-9292-23bf59558f2e.pngTsongkhapa Lobsang Drakpa, founder of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. In 1409 he founded Gaden, the mother monastery of Gelugpa and started an annual prayer festival in Jokhang Temple. Tsong Khapa was born in Tsongkha valley, Amdo province. His birth was the culmination of a process of spiritual development that began in a previous life, at the time of Shakyamuni Buddha. Tsongkhapa wears the Gelugpa yellow hat, his hands make the gesture of Dharmacakra-Mudra (Turning Wheel of Doctrine), and on his right and left sides, the sword (symbol of wisdom) and book supported by two lotus flowers.
38c8f510-bbb9-11eb-80a1-7324be1a2224.pngMarpa Lotsawa, main disciple of Naropa and lineage master of Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. Marpa was born in Lhodrak Chukhyer, south Tibet. He was the 1st Tibetan member of the lineage. He made 3 trips to India and received all Naropa’s teachings, becoming one of his Dharma heirs. He returned to teach in Tibet, translating Buddhist scriptures into Tibetan. The image of Marpa Lotsawa appears aggressive. His natural look of power and strength frightened the people in his village and he was not welcome in many homes.
38d2e020-bbb9-11eb-a607-c7364b7cce25.pngJetsun Milarepa, the greatest yogi was born in the 11th C in Tibetan Buddhism. He was born in the 11th C in Gungthang, West Tibet. He was one of Tibet’s greatest poets and yogis. Milarepa is easy to identify as he holds his left hand to his ear to listen to the echoes of Nature, and a skull cup or begging bowl in his right hand.
4dad29b0-bbb9-11eb-80a1-7324be1a2224.pngThangthong Gyalpo was an important Shangpa Kagyu master, a famous civil engineer, doctor and artist. He was born in the late 14th century in Upper Tsang. He founded Ache Lhamo (Tibetan opera), and built numerous iron suspension bridges to ease travel and pilgrimage through the Himalayas. He established a song and dance troupe of 7 sisters to raise the money needed to build these bridges. Thangthong Gyalpo designed and built large stupas of unusual design including the great Kumbum Chorten at Chung Riwoche, Tibet, and Derge Gongchen Monastery, East Tibet. He is usually portrayed as a paunchy old man with brown or red skin in the lotus posture on a double lotus throne. He wears, like many yogis and Mahasiddhas, a white cotton garment, red cloak, meditation belt, jewel chain, earrings and bracelets with the flame jewel. In the left hand, he holds the skull cup, Thopa (Kapala) and nectar vase. The right hand, almost in ‘earth-touching’ gesture lies on top of the knee. A 5-link chain may be in his right hand. Only in a small sculpture in Merak, is he shown as a young man, holding the five link chain high above his head.
4dec5590-bbb9-11eb-9292-23bf59558f2e.pngMahakala Nagpo Chenpo, a wrathful emanation of Avalokiteshvara, belonging to the Dharmapala, the protectors of the Buddhism. He is regarded as wish-fulfilling and one of the Eight Guardians of Buddhist law by Tibetans. Mahakala is one of the most important guardian deities of both the Karma Kagyupa school and most other schools of Tibetan Buddhism. There are 75 kinds of manifestations, and in wrathful emanations he appears with 1 face and 6 arms, standing up fiercely, black in colour with 3 round bulbous eyes, a large gaping red mouth with bared white fangs, yellow beard, eyebrows and hair flowing upward like flames. The right hand holds aloft a curved flaying knife with a vajra handle. The left holds a white blood-filled skull cup to the heart. Adorned with a crown of five dry white skulls, earrings, bracelets and a garland of freshly severed heads, he wears a great black cloak with a green jacket beneath. He stands surrounded by black smoke and faint red licks of the flames of pristine awareness.
4e1a6a70-bbb9-11eb-80a1-7324be1a2224.pngPalden Lhamo (Female Guardian) one of the more wrathful female deities of Buddhism, and the only female of the 8 Dharmapalas, and wrathful manifestation of Tara. Among her roles, she is one of the 2 state oracles of Tibet, special protector of Lhasa, the Gelukpa Order, and Dalai Lamas. She was invited to Tibet in the 11th century from India. Palden Lhamo appears in wrathful form, riding her mule through a sea of blood, surrounded by wisdom fire. Her son’s flayed skin is used as the saddle blanket on her mule. Around her waist is a belt hung with severed heads. She is surrounded by loops of a string made with 15 severed heads. In her navel is a bright sun disc. The violent images are understood by initiates as sacred symbols of inner transformation in a compassionate religious culture that shuns actions, thoughts or words that might be harmful to other living beings.
4e70c7d0-bbb9-11eb-9292-23bf59558f2e.pngVajrapani Chan Dorje, Bodhisattva of power and energy, embodies the spiritual power of all the Buddhas. His name means “Wielder of the Thunderbolt” and he protects those who walk the Mahayana path, removing all inner, outer and secret obstacles. Enlightened eons ago, Vajrapani is said to have incarnated as one of Buddha Shakyamuni’s primary disciples. He is seen with Manjushri (embodiment of Buddhas’ wisdom) and Avalokiteshvara (embodiment of Buddhas’ compassion). Together these 3 bodhisattvas comprise the 3 parts of Buddha- nature and the 3 necessary ingredients for enlightenment. Vajrapani is depicted in warrior’s pose, one leg bent and the other outstretched. In his right hand he brandishes a vajra aloft, representing his diamond-like motivation and impetus to accomplishment. His left hand holds a lasso, to bind the demons of delusion. He has 3 eyes, symbolising his knowledge of past, present, and future. He wears a crown adorned with five human skulls, representing the five transcendent wisdoms. Around his neck is a garland of serpents, a reminder of his aspect as protector of the Nagas. He is clothed in a tiger-skin and surrounded by the blazing fire of exalted wisdom.
4ebcc4f0-bbb9-11eb-80a1-7324be1a2224.pngYamantaka Dorje Jigje is the most well-known protector of the yellow hat sect/ Gelugpa order of Tibetan Buddhism. He symbolises the ferocious emanation of bodhisattva Manjushree and is known as the destroyer of death and ego, which keeps us trapped in recurring misery, preventing us from bodhicitta. His simplest form has 1 bullhead and 2 blue arms. He sees the reality of the world through his 3rd eye and has a crown of skulls. He carries a chopper in his right hand and a skull cup in his left hand.
4ee73050-bbb9-11eb-9292-23bf59558f2e.pngHayagriva Tamdrin is a wrathful manifestation of Avalokiteshvara. Hayagriva was originally the attendant of Avalokiteshvara. Hayagriva is associated with the Hindu god Vishnu. In Tibetan Buddhism he is always depicted with a crowned horse head and one wrathful red face. A tiger skin is around his waist with a garland of 52 chopped off heads. On his back are the wings of Garuda. In his 6 hands are a lotus, club sword, skull cup, snare and axe. Under his 4 legs are a sun disc and corpses.
4f6dec80-bbb9-11eb-9292-23bf59558f2e.pngHeruka Chakrasamvara Demchok “Wheel of Perfect Bliss”, the most important Yidam (meditation deity) of the Highest Yoga Tantra of Vajrayana Buddhism. He is the primary Yidam of the Kagyu tradition which came to Tibet from Naropa, to his disciple Marpa, to Milarepa and thus to the various meditative traditions of the Geluk and Sakya sects. Chakrasamvara has with a blue body and 4 faces, each looking in one of the 4 cardinal directions and 12 arms, or in a simpler 1-face, 2-arm form. He is in union with his Wisdom Consort Vajravarahi who holds a skullcap in her left hand and a vajra chopper in her right behind his back. Their embrace symbolises the union of wisdom and skill, unity and diversity.
4d715930-bbb9-11eb-a607-c7364b7cce25.pngThe Four Guardian Kings are Indian gods incorporated into Buddhist narrative. Four Kings came to Shakyamuni Buddha just after he achieved enlightenment under the bodhi tree and offered him, individually, black bowls of sapphire or lapis lazuli. The Buddha accepted the offer and the four bowls miraculously became one, the black bowl typically seen in the lap of Shakyamuni. Often found at entrances of monasteries and believed to be Mongolian in origin, they protect the four cardinal directions: east king Dritarashtra (Tibetan Yul Khor Srung) is white and has a lute; south king Virudhaka (Tibetan Pag Pi Kye Bo) is blue and has a sword; west king Virupaksha (Tibetan Chen Mizang) is red and has a thunderbolt; north king Vaishravana (Tibetan Nam To Se) is yellow and has a banner of victory and a jewel-spitting mongoose. He is also regarded as the god of wealth and depicted riding a snow lion.
4fb3cf20-bbb9-11eb-a607-c7364b7cce25.pngDharma King Songtsen Gambo, considered a manifestation of Avalokitesvara and one of the 3 great ancestors of Tibet. He married Buddhist princesses Brikuti Devi (Nepal) and Wencheng (Tang dynasty). Both brought a holy statue of Buddha Shakyamuni to Tibet as their dowry. Jokhang and Ramoche temples were built in Lhasa to enshrine the statues. Songtsen Gambo sent his minister Sambhota to India to learn Sanskrit, and on his return he developed a Tibetan script to enable Buddhist scriptures to be translated into Tibetan. He made the law of 10 positive deeds and 16 humanitarian deeds. He is pictured with Buddha Amitabha on his head. His statues are placed most temples, palaces and monasteries in Tibet.
4fab43a0-bbb9-11eb-80a1-7324be1a2224.pngDharma King Trisong Detsen, considered a manifestation of Manjushiri, the Buddha of wisdom. He is the 2nd of the 3 great ancestors of Tibet. During his rule Tibet was militarily powerful and he expanded his territory. He strongly supported the development of Buddhism in Tibet. He organised debate between Bon and Buddhist masters, and chose Buddhism as the main religion of Tibet. Trisong Detsen invited famous Indian Buddhist masters like Padmasambhava and abbot Shantarakshita. At Samye the first 7 monks of Tibet received their Buddhist vows.
4fddec60-bbb9-11eb-9292-23bf59558f2e.pngDharma King Trirelpa is the 3rd of 3 great ancestors of Tibet. He ruled Tibet during the 9th century. He was crowned instead his older brother as he was more dedicated. Trirelpa contributed greatly to the development of Buddha Dharma by setting up Buddhist learning and meditation centres. He made laws to let families support a monk and excused monks from paying military taxes. His respect for monks was so high he let monks sit on his long hair. Because of his support for Buddhism his ministers killed him and put his non-Buddhist older brother Utun Tsenpo/Langda Ma on the throne. He is believed to be a manifestation of Vajrapani, the Buddha of energy.

King Gesar is a popular tale from Tibet (and Mongolia), and is on UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. The epic dates to 11th-13th century. When sung in Tibet, it is accompanied by a lute made of a cow horn. The epic is rich in content, its structure and musical composition are complex. Normally, episodes from the story are sung by travelling minstrels who recount the history of the Tibetan people. The King Gesar story is one of the most popular epics, deeply rooted in the Tibetan community especially in eastern Tibet. The epic has a rich diversity of expressions: singing, dialogue, explanations by means of illustrations, etc. He is also considered as a manifestation of Padmasambhava who came to Tibet in the eighth century to subdue demons and sow the seed of Dharma. He defeated many kings of different kingdoms including Gurkar of Hor kingdom. To Tibetans, he is the manifestation of Buddhas and a national hero.
Potala palace details

Posted by PetersF 07:41 Archived in China Tagged buddhism tibet lhasa potala jokhang Comments (0)

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