Drepung monastery was the residence of the Dalai Lamas before the construction of Potala Palace was completed. Drepung is the largest monastery in Tibet. During the time when Buddhism was thriving in Tibet, up to ten thousand monks were living in the monastery. Although there are a lot fewer monks living there now (around 600), modern-day Drepung still shows the signs of its previous glory.
Drepung belongs to the Gelug (Yellow Hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is one of the three main monasteries of Yellow hats. The other two are Sera in Lhasa and Ganden located 40 km away from Lhasa.
The complex soon attracted many monks and turned into an important educational center. There were four academies studying Tibetan Buddhism, and Dalai Lamas were studying there. Drepung became very influential since the Dalai Lamas executed their power from there.
The Fifth Dalai Lama moved the seat to the newly constructed Potala Palace. Tombs of the second, third and fourth Dalai Lamas are located in Drepung.
Visiting the Drepung Monastery
Drepung monastery complex is large, and if you wish to visit all main buildings, it will take you all day. Most of the visitors choose the most important buildings, such as the Main Assembly Hall, the Ganden Palace and a few chapels nearby.
The Ganden Palace served was home to early Dalai Lamas, until the fifth Dalai Lama established the Potala Palace. It still contains the tombs of second, third and fourth Dalai Lamas.
The Main Assembly hall is the largest structure in the complex and the most impressive. The Assembly hall is a 3 store building with the large terrace overlooking the city of Lhasa and the valley. The main statue there is the 3-floors high Future Buddha. In addition, there are statues of Shakyamuni, Tsongkhapa, 13th Dalai Lama and protectors in the chapels.
Drepung was an important educational center with 4 colleges. These colleges are Ngagpa studying Tantric Buddhism, Loseling studying logic, Gomang, and Deyang.
Things to do nearby
Visit Protectors chapel
At the bottom of the hill you can see the protectors chapel. It is very popular among Tibetans.
It is a 2-store building with several chapels and the large terrace with the view on both the Drepung Monastery and the city of Lhasa.
You can buy barley beer before entering the chapel and offer it to the protectors.