Gelugpa Monastery of Ganden (and a live assembly)


We told at our gateway to Tibet, Xining, that the most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries that exist could be summed up in that of Kumbum (which we visited that day), Jokhang, Ganden, Sera and Drepung in Lhasa and surroundings, Labrang in Gansu, Golden Monastery of Namdroling in India and Tashilhunpo in Shigatse. In addition, Kumbum was our first approach to the monastery in honor of the birthplace of Tsongkhapa, founder of the most important Gelupga sect in Tibet. What better way to close a trip to Tibet than visiting the Ganden Monastery in the place where he died?

The day also was going to bring us many surprises like living a live assembly, available to very few, or enjoy our last hours of Lhasa discovering some secret corners.

8 Ganden Monastery, the legacy of Tsongkhapa

ALTITUDE 4,300 m With grief, but eager to see my girls (and Nico), I face my last day in Tibetan territory already focused on the surroundings of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. Do you remember the main attractions what to see in Lhasa (with map) What had we distributed? All of them had been the subject of different days: Jokhang-Lingkor-Sera-Barkhor, Potala-Norbulingka or Drepung. Which one are you missing? Indeed, those curves that ascend the mountain have the answer ...

He Ganden Monastery is not "technically" in Lhasa but is located at 40 kilometers outside located at the top of Mount Wangbur, at an altitude of 4,300 meters (! back up! ahg) and located in such a way that it looks like an amphitheater of colors

The reality is that the scenario we see before us is a more current reconstruction since, like many places we have been visiting, it was subject to destruction during the Chinese Cultural Revolution in 1956. However, it looks beautiful at the top of the mountain.

Ganden (which means "cheerful" although the full name is full name is Ganden Namgyal Ling which becomes something like "cheerful victorious temple") was founded by Tsongkhapa in 1409 with large statues and three-dimensional mandalas and it was the place where he decided to spend the last days. The Tsongkhapa stupa that marks the place where he died on October 25, 1419 is gold and silver today although his body was burned by the People's Liberation Army, barely saving his skull and some ashes that are safeguarded today in the great building of intense red color from the center of the city-monastery.

While it is true that they came to live here until 2000 monks and that during the riots of 1996 it was closed again, it seems that the monks in the yellow cap have returned and there is an important community of 200-300 devotees.


In this last volume to understand Tibetan Buddhism there is a concept that we have seen but not explained that it is monastic life, very different from that known to us. The Gelug school, the main dominant in Tibet, developed a structured system of scholastic study that was based on memorization and the study of key texts, as well as in the formal debate. The process begins with that memorization of the root text and its comments, moving on to an interpretation and culminating in a dialectical debate.

The visit to the monastery of Ganden (not to be confused with the one established in Karnataka by the Tibetans in exile) encompasses their traditional alleyways, a guest house, the Serdung (Tsongkhapa's tomb), the Tsokchen Assembly Hall and the Ngam Cho Khang chapel (where Tsongkhapa taught)

What we did not expect is that in the impressive meeting room will be congregated at that time hundreds of monks before we just entered. They are in full assembly and we can attend!

Its about most spiritual moment of the trip, the one that gives you goosebumps. Monks wrapped in their reddish robes reading the venerated sacred texts where the founder of the Gelugpa order did so in the fifteenth century.

The degree of spirituality is such that they seemed in a perfect trance with books in a ceremony that is usually prohibited for foreigners (Although today we were completely alone since in the entire Ganden monastery we did not see even 1 tourist). The level of religiosity lived in Tibet is only comparable to experiences we have had in Iran and surely only comparable to countries like India or Saudi Arabia.

Almost trembling we left our morning visit and headed back to Lhasa. The afternoon was going to be for us and so we told Tambor and Bruno. We would see them tomorrow to go to the airport.

IMPORTANT NOTE YOU MUST READ: If you have reached this article of travel diary to Tibet and you get this box is that already We are within the Autonomous Region of Tibet and you must know 3 data:

1 This story is part of a complete guide to our trip to Tibet and has many more items that will help you prepare yours. Mind you, Tibet is more than Lhasa although many packages are limited to it.
2 It is NOT possible to travel to Tibet for free. Beyond the Chinese visa itself, it is necessary to obtain a Tibet Entry Permit that you will be required to catch any flight / train that goes inside and more times during your trip. This procedure ONLY AND EXCLUSIVELY can be obtained by hiring a tour with a specialized agency. We have traveled with Youlan Tours which also allows you to design a Tailor-made trip with different unique experiences to traditional routes throughout China and works with Spanish guides.
3 It goes without saying you must have travel insurance but BE CAREFUL, BE CAREFUL, you need an appropriate one that allows you to perform activities up to 5,200 meters and not everyone has that coverage (or almost none). Ours, as always, is that of IATI Insurance although this time we need the BACKPACK mode to have all the coverage at those altitudes

The Lhasa of the secret corners

ALTITUDE 3,656 m Convinced of getting lost in its streets as we have done many times in the world ahead, Sele and I were clear that this afternoon was going to be for us and fortune did not abandon us, did you doubt it?

RESTAURANTS IN TIBET | LHASA: Leisurely Cofee, one of the best restaurants overlooking the Potala Palace that does not appear in the guides (for medium-expensive prices since we eat for 115 CNY each).

To locate it (since it was pure chiripa) you have to look from the checkpoint that gives access to Potala (not the one that is attached to the main road but the one that is advanced by the right cross) and you enter through a door that give an elevator as you see in the photo

From there you access the last floor in the elevator

An ideal place to say goodbye on the last day of a trip that marks a life

Our ride could not ignore the Potala's palace. We had seen it from many angles but we had no photos of the day so we had no excuse

Potala is one of those few places in the world that You can see again and again and not get tired. Majestic, imposing, magical, special, ... the qualifications are exhausted before the great icon of Tibet and the Dalai Lama

On the left side leaving by the control point of the square there is an area that we had seen the other day with the car coming from the summer residence in Norbulingka where large stupas hide one of the viewpoints that give the most used image in the city postcards.

From here you can also draw a fairly obvious conclusion throughout our itinerary: the Chinese have little taste for urban planning. Who can think of putting that road through the square and the palace? Anyway…

On the way back to Kyichu Hotel we have also taken advantage Enter a pharmacy and stores that seemed curious and see the success of the "viagra-worm" or oxygen bottles that we have not needed. Test passed!

We have taken advantage of the last hours of light to leave the bags ready for tomorrow's flights and so time for dinner

Tibetan tangkas and farewell to Lhasa

After dining our usual momos in the Lhasa Kitchen (which we have repeated several times on this trip) there was a curiosity that we had left pending to interpret. All the way we have not stopped seeing great tangkas, which more elaborate, and we were curious to see how they did them, In addition to Sele take advantage of the latest purchases. The tangka is a very complex piece to elaborate since it starts as part of a religious ritual (it is part of the cult of the artist) and usually takes several months of work between the preparation of the fabric, dyeing the colors, painting with liquid gold and make the final assembly.

Thus, hallucinating with some of them that come to have prices of 12,000 USD and entering several collector stores, we say goodbye to the last hours in Lhasa on a day marked by that imposing Ganden Monastery and the unique moment lived by being able to attend that assembly of monks just for us. A trip is over ... is another one about to start?

Isaac (with Sele), from Lhasa (Tibet)

EXPENSES OF THE DAY: 115 CNY (approx. 15.33 EUR)