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Tashilhunpo Monastery is meaning “ Auspicious Sumeru Monastery”, located at the foot of Drolmari (Tara's Mountain) in Shigatse, Tibet, it is the largest monastery in the area and the seat of Panchen Lama. Besides, it is one of the six famous monasteries of Gelug Sect in China, and the other five are Gandan Monastery, Sera Monastery, Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, Kumbum Monastery (Ta’er Si) in Qinghai Province and Labrang Monastery in Gansu Province.
In 1447, Tashilhunpo Monastery was built by Gendun Drup, the disciple of Tsongkhapa who is the founder of Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Gendun Drup was regarded as the first Dalai Lama after he passed away. Afterwards, Tashilhunpo Monastery was extended by the fourth Panchen Lama Lobsang Choekyi Gyeltsen.
Tashilhunpo Monastery covers 150,000 square meters area, and has bounding wall that is winding along the mountain and is more than 3000 meters long. Besides, there are 57 scripture halls and 3600 rooms in it. The whole monastery is built leaning the mountain slope.
As the earliest building of Tashilhunpo Monastery, the Tsochin Hall ("Tsochin" means great Dhammasala) can accommodate 2000 people chanting. There are Sakyamuni Buddha statue in the hall, and erected statues of Gendun Drup and the fourth Dalai Lama on both sides.
The most majestic buildings are Great Maitreya Buddha Hall and generations of Panchen Lama’s soul stupa house.
At the west side of Tashilhunpo Monastery, it is a Maitreya Chapel with 30 meters high that was built by the ninth Panchen Lama Chos-kyi Nyi-ma in 1941. In the Great Maitreya Buddha Hall, the sitting statue of Maitreya Buddha is worshiped here that is 26.2 meters high and has 231,400 catty of brass and 6,700 liang of gold. It is said that only two eyebrows are inlaid with more than 1400 diamonds and pearls. It is the largest sitting statue of copper Buddha in the world.
The eight soul stupas in Tashilhunpo Monastery are generations of Panchen Lama’s body stupas. With different sizes, the eight body stupas are decorated with pearls and jades. Among of them, the body stupa of the tenth Panchen Lama is the most luxury. Butter lamps with various sizes are ignited in each soul stupa and will not be extinguished all year.
The Tara Hall is located at the east side of the three Buddha halls behind the Scripture Hall. Among the three Buddha halls, Sakyamuni Buddha is in the middle, and Maitreya Buddha Hall is in the west side. The gold statue of Sakyamuni Buddha with 5 meters high is worshiped in Sakyamuni Hall. It is said that there are Buddhist relics of Sakyamuni, hair of Taongkhapa and skull of Xirao Sengge who is the scripture teacher of Gendun Drup in the Buddha statue. Tara Hall is called Droma Khang in Tibetan, and the cooper statue of White Tara with 2 meters high and the clay figure of Green Tara on the both sides are worshiped in it.
Tashilhunpo Monastery has four Dratsangs (Theological Schools) and teaches both Exotoric Buddhism and Esoteric Buddhism.
There are many cultural relics in Tashilunpo Monastery, the most precious of which is the Golden Soul Stupa. Decorated richly, Golden Soul Stupa is divided into three layers according to religion sadhana drubtab: up layer, middle layer, lower layer. The highland barley, wheat, rice, tea leaf, salt, alkali, various dried fruits and sugars, sandalwood, various medicinal materials, various satin, golden carved saddle, rhino horn, silver treasure, jewelry, master cassock and Tibetan costume are on the lower layer; the Tripitaka, the classics of the three great ancestors of the Gelug Sect, the classics of the generations of Panchens, the classics of the generations of Panchen dhama masters, the Baye Sutra, and the Buddhist sutra written in gold ink, etc. are on the middle layer; the Buddhist sutras and Buddha statues are on the up layer. The tenth Panchen Lama ’s body was placed intact in the center of the blessing place of all sentient beings, and various religious items were placed around it, such as cassocks, Thangka, Buddha statues, scriptures, etc..
Mask Dance (Cham) Festival at Tashilhunpo Monastery
On every 2nd and 3rd of the eighth Tibetan calendar month, the traditional cham dance was performed at Tashilhunpo Monastery, Shigatse, southwest China's Tibet. Many of pilgrims and tourists gather in Tashilunpo Monastery to watch the special ceremony with mask dance (Cham). Cham is a religious ritual dance performed by Tibetan Buddhist monks. They put on cham masks, wear performance costumes, arm with drums, knives and axes, and act Vajra, Skull, deer, yak, etc. The rhythm of dance is slow and the atmosphere is solemn and mysterious. Some mimes interspersed during the mask dance are humorous. After the Cham dance follow by Tibetan opera for several days.