Ganden Monastery (Gāndān Sì, 甘丹寺) is an important monastic university—the first of the three great Gelugpa spiritual and educational centers built in the early 15th century along with Sera Monastery and Drepung Monastery. The monastery complex is located about 40 km (25 mi) from Lhasa but is worth the trek.
The Red Guard did a thorough job destroying much of Ganden in 1959 (the thousands of resident monks were forced to dismantle many of the buildings themselves by hand) and almost finished it off in 1966 with firearms and explosives. Much of the sect moved to India to rebuild the monastery in a safe-haven, but the original Tibetan location is also being rebuilt—quite rapidly—so that there is plenty to visit today. Many ruins from the original structures remain, too, creating a whole picture of the place's history.
The founder of Buddhism's Gelugpa sect, Tsongkhapa, who had the Ganden Monastery built, spent much of his time here and eventually died here. Even his remains suffered in the Cultural Revolution, but some of his skull fragments are still enshrined here. The Dalai Lama famously left his yellow hat at Ganden and in the fully-restored Golden Throne Room you can witness pilgrims receiving a swat on the back with it.
About 4 km (2.5 mi) north of Lhasa lies Sera Monastery (Sèlā Sì, 色拉寺), one of the three great university monasteries dedicated to the Gelukpa,..
Any trip to Lhasa will warrant a few visits to Barkhor (Bākuò Jiē, 八廓街; "Barkhor Street")—the religious heart and market center of the capital..
Sitting well exposed to the glare of the sun, the summer experience at Potala Palace prompted the Seventh Dalai Lama (1708-1757) to have Norbulingka built, a..
Jokhang Temple (Dàzhāo Sì, 大昭寺) is the most important and sacred temple in Tibetan Buddhism and a key center of pilgrimage. The symbolic power..