Ganden monastery is the greatest and the oldest monastery of the Gelug Sect, which is also called one of “the three principal monasteries” (the other two are Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery). At its peak, it had a registration of more than 4,000 monks. Tsongkhapa, the founder of Gelug Sect, established it as the first Gelug monastery in the 15th century when he carried out the religious reform in Tibet. The full name of Ganden monastery is Drok Riwo Geden Nampar Gyalwai Ling. The main component is Yangbachen, Tsomchen assembly hall, Jangtse hermitage, Shartse College, Trithok Khang Hall Ganden parkhang and the Ngachoe chapel
Location: The Ganden monastery lies in Lhatse County, 57 kilometers east of Lhasa, the Wangbori Mountain with the altitude of 3,800 meters. Besides its typical Tibetan style, it is three times as large as Potala.
Opening time: 09:00-16:00 a.m.
Price: free for the locals, RMB 50 yuan for one person.
Major Parts of Ganden Monastery
Ganden monastery was built in the traditional Buddhist architecture style, adjusted measures to the mountain and perfectly blended temples into a palace. The main structures in the monastery are the Main Assembly Hall (Tshomchen) and Tantric colleges.
Main Assembly Hall (Tshomchen) Situated in the northern area and set facing south, is the largest assembly hall, with 43.8 meters wide and 44.7 meters long and three stories high. The first floor consists of a hall, a chapel, and three chanting halls; among those, the largest one is capable of holding more than 3,000 lamas. The molds of Maitreya and Tsong Khapa are enshrined and worshiped in the hall. And there is a delicate mold of a roof on the left gate of the hall.
Yangbajian (a Buddhist building) lies in the west of the Main Assembly Hall, consisted of Buddhist Doctrine-protecting Hall, of the monastery. The chapel was built in 1416 and the fourth Panchen added a gold roof to it in 1610.
Serdhung is close to Yangbajian whose houses Tsong Khapa’s and his successors’ stupas. On October 25, 1419, Tsong Khapa died and his disciples built the hall to house his tomb, which was made of 900 taels of silver (equaling more than 1100 troy ounces). The thirteenth Dalai Lama changed it into gold later. Since that it was a custom to build a silver tomb for deceased Ganden tripas. More than 95 silvers tombs were built before the revolution of China.
Tri Thok Khang is one of the early structures, which is the residence of Tsong Khapa and the successive tripas. It is also named cloth-keeping hall because their clothing has been kept in the hall. And for Tsong Khapa, this hall is also the place the deceased. It was expanded in 1720 and its gold roof was constructed during the reign of the Seventh Dalai Lama.
Ganden monastery has two Tantric colleges, which were both built by Tsong Khapa’s disciples. Both the chanting halls of the two can hold 1,500 lamas chanting. Except for the two, there are more than 20 small chanting halls, which belong to different Khangtsens (smaller organizations than colleges). Each of them can house 200 chanting monks. Except that there are numerous palaces built by Dasizhouben (the main benefactor).
Ganden monastery was set up in the early 15th century by Tsong Khapa (the founder of Gelug). According to the legend, he learned to read at the age of 3, and entered into religion at 7 with the religious name of Lobsang Drakpa, and made the present name Tsong Khapa for himself as a respectable religion leader. Following many learned monks; he got the degree at 25 and began to impart the Buddhism at 29 and formed his own thoughts while writing books at 40. In 1406, he held a large meeting to expand the influence of Yellow Sect at the first day of the first lunar month at Jokhang. After that, supported by Phaktru, he and his disciples established Ganden monastery in the Wangbori Mountain.
In this monastery that he settled down and continued to develop Gelug. In 1419, Tsong Khapa passed away and his disciple, Khaydrup Je took over this monastery. After the management of 95 abbots, Ganden monastery has been expanded into a grand architecture building. At its peak, it covered the area of 150,000 square meters and the floor space is 77,500 square meters. The main structures in the monastery consist of chanting halls and chapels and 43 villages. Besides, there are 9 debating courtyards in accordance to the debating in the different season.