Travel Guide

Drepung Monastery

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Located 5 km from Lhasa, the Drepung Monastery is considered one of the three great monasteries in Tibet. It was first built in 1416, and held 7,700 monks in its heyday. In Tibetan language, Drepung Monastery means monastery of collecting rice.

Drepung is the largest of all Tibetan monasteries, and indeed at its peak was the largest monastery of any religion in the world. It was founded in 1416 by Jamyang Chojey, a direct disciple of Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelukpa School.

Drepung Monastery was known for the high standards of its academic study, and was called the Nalanda of Tibet, a reference to the great Buddhist monastic university of India. Chapman reported that in the late 1930's Drepung was divided into four colleges, each housing monks from a different locality.

Drepung is now divided into what are known as the seven great colleges: Gomang (sGo-mang), Loseling (Blo-gsal gling), Deyang (bDe-dbyangs), Shagkor (Shag-skor), Gyelwa (rGyal-ba) or Tosamling (Thos-bsam gling), Dulwa (‘Dul-ba), and Ngagpa (sNgags-pa). It can be a somewhat useful analogy to think of Drepung as a university along the lines of Oxford or the Sorbonne in the Middle Ages, the various colleges having different emphases, teaching lineages, or traditional geographical affiliations. Today the population at the monastery located in Tibet is much smaller with merely a few hundred monks. However, the institution has continued its tradition.

What's more, the Drepung Monastery houses many cultural relics, which adron the monastery and make it more superb. Statues of Manjushri Bodhisattva, and Sitatapatra found on the first story of the Coqen Hall, rare sutras on the second story and Jamyang Qoigy's conch shell given by Tsong Khapa on the third one, all add to the wonder of the monastery. Exquisite statues of Tsong Khapa, Kwan-yin Bodhisttva, Manjushri Bodhisattva, Amitayus, and Jamyang Qoigyi in other sutra halls, as well as flowery murals on walls also fully present the wisdom of the Tibetan people.