When you travel to Tibet, you should not miss this great monastery, Ganden Monastery. It is known as one of the “great three” Gelug university monasteries of Tibet, the other two are Drepung and Sera monastery. But the Ganden monastery is the most important and beautiful located on the mountain around the altitude of 4200m.

Admission Fee: CNY 55

Opening Hours: 09:00-17:00

Recommended Time for a Visit: Three hours

Transportation: The best way is to take a taxi which costs about CNY 20

1 The history of Ganden Monastery

Ganden Monastery is the first and primary monastery of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. In Tibetan language, it means a grand site in the Western Heaven of Buddhism. It was set up in the early 15th century by Tsong Khapa who is the founder of Gelug. The founding of the Ganden Summons Ceremony and the establishment of the Ganden Monastery signified the formation of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Besides, another monastery with the same name was set up in Southern India in 1966 by Tibetan exiles.

It’s important to note most of it was destructed during the Revolution and rebuilt in 1985. Some ruins are original but most of it is new.

2 Highlights:

1) The architecture of Ganden Monastery

Ganden Monastery has more than two dozen major chapels with large Buddha statues. The main hall of Garden which is close to a huge square is a white building with gold-capped roofs. The cathedral contains many gold-plated images of Tsongkhapa. In the main hall, there is a great statue of Sakyamuni Buddha and a part of the biblical texts made by the manual printing of wood.

2) Debate in the Ganden Monastery

Ganden Monastery is made of four Zhacang which is functioning as the sutra-learning places and the subordinate organization. The Loseling, Gomang, and Deyang Zhacang concentrate on the Esoteric Buddhism but the Ngaba Zhacang concentrates on the exoteric Buddhism. There are so a great many monks always debate on the sutras in several courtyards. After the debate period in both Zhacang and the entire monastery, the winner will be eligible to participate in a test for the senior degree of Geshi. Ganden monastery is a good example of ancient Tibetan university as it has produced numerous Buddhist scholars and has kept alive the ancient Buddhist wisdom.

3 ) Amazing works of art

This Ganden monastery has so great many well preserved cultural relics, such as the armor of Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911). The armor is adorned with jewelry and engraved with four kinds of characters. Besides, it also has elegant tapestries from Jiangsu Province, the sutra written in gold which is known as the National Super-Class Cultural Relic, and a set of thangka painted with sixteen arhats and the four Heavenly Kings.

4) Do a trekking around the Ganden monastery

If you are interested in a short trek, you should never miss a good chance to walk the short circumambulation route around the monastery. The path is narrow and not improved with some hazardous stretches along steep cliffs. It is also an active pilgrimage site so many of the worshippers do the entire distance by stretching out flat on the ground, then stepping to where their hands reached and then laying down again. Over uneven pathways, this must be a grueling ordeal for the faithful as a showing of their devotion. On the backside of the mountain on which Ganden is located in, there are very fantastic views of the valley far below. As Ganden Monastery is also a sky burial place, sometimes vultures and crows can be seen circling overhead. It’s so mystic!

Ganden monastery is a nice place to visit when you go for a trip to Tibet. Just enjoy yourself and enjoy a good time here.