15 kilometers away from Shigaste, Nartang Monastery was originally built in the year of 1033 by the Kadampa monk Luojiazha. Although it is not as grand as Tashilhunpo Monastery, its history can date back to more than 400 years earlier than the latter one. After the complete of Nartang Monastery, there welcomed a large number of eminent monks preach a sermon and disseminate the dharma here, for example, Phags-pa’s teacher once lived here as well as the first Dalai Lama, he was initiated into monkhood here and learned dharma up to 17 years, didn’t move to Shigatse until the construction of Tashilhunpo Monastery. In addition, Nartang Monastery is best known for its scripture-printing hall. In 1730, the Tibetan local government presided over the construction of Nartang Monastery in order to rescue and carry forward Tibetan ancient books and scriptures. This huge printing hall was built under all Tibetans doing enforced and unpaid work for the government and took a total of more than 20 years to complete.
At the same time, the government assembled all calligraphers, engravers and painters of Tibet, together with a number of young people learning mechanical skills. After quite a long period of joint efforts, the printing hall of Nartang Monastery carved and printed out with a large number of Tibetan masterpieces such as the Tripitaka 108 pieces of kangyur, 125 pieces of Tengyur, all are complete exquisite carving. On the scripture board carved not only characters but also colored pictures. In the printing business, Nartang Monastery is larger than that of Potala Palace and Dege in terms of both scale and the contribution, known as “Tibetan Library”.
Meanwhile, during the practice of printing scriptures, Nartang Monastery also cultivated a large number of Tibetan engraving craftsmen, which has played an inestimable and invaluable role in the inheritance and development of Tibetan printing and cultural undertakings. Unfortunately, Nartang Monastery has been destroyed like many other temples in Tibet. In 1987, there built another 3 halls just on the ruins of Nartang Monastery, reserved 7 blocks of stone carved Sixteen Arhats, a pair of footprints left on a stone by the eighth abbot and many other historical relics involved the kangyur, tengyur and 8800 pieces of printing board.
Located within the territory of Shigatse City, Nartang Monastery is about 20 kilometers away from the downtown area. In Tibetan language, “Nartang” bears the meaning of “trunk ground temple”. Legend has it that in 1039 when an Indian monk Atisha came to preach a sermon in Tibet, he asked accompanied disciples “what is on the flat ground beside this mountain?” Disciples answered “there’s a large rock and 16 golden bees on the ground beside this trunk-like mountain.” Thereupon, Atisha got pleased and predicted that there would be a famous temple that would widely spread Buddhism just on this flat ground in the near future. The 16 golden bees exactly are the embodiment of the 16 honored persons while that large rock was a symbol of Nartang Monastery. Moreover, he said that this place was where the 16 honored persons always halted, extremely auspicious, remarkable and outstanding. Apart from Nartang Monastery, it is also given the named as Puen Monastery by Emperor Yongzheng of Qing Dynasty. Constructed in the year of 1033, Nartang Monastery belongs to the Kadampa temples.
After Nartang Monastery was gradually completed, it contained 4 dratsang and 13 scripture halls as well as shags that usually accommodate more than 3000 monks at its zenith. Inside of this monastery reserved a great number of statues of Buddha and stupas. Among all the statues, the Maitreya Buddha made of alloy copper is the most supernatural and is said to be introduced in from India. There are also particularly large Shakyamuni Golden Buddha, Bodhisattva, arhat and protective deities additionally. A variety of exquisite murals are painted on walls of each hall and the cloister, almost in themes of monk biography, records of temple construction and dkyil-vkhor etc. Besides, a large number of cultural relics were preserved in the temple, for instance, Thangka of Yuan Dynasty, Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty.
Note: A short trek option is available from Shalu Monastery to Nartang Monastery with only 2-3 days duration. And the brief trekking itinerary is below:
Day 1: Trek from Shalu Monastery (3980m) to Upper Lungsang
Day 2: Trek from Upper Lungsang to Ngor Monastery
Day 3: Trek from Ngor Monastery to Nartang Monastery