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Samye Monastery complex in Tibet

SAMYE MONASTERY

Statue of Thousand arms and eyes compassion Buddha Chenrezig in Samye monastery

KEY FACTS

Location: Samye Town

Samye altitude: 3,580 meters

Duration of Visit: at least 2 days tour from Lhasa

Best Time to Travel: year round

Samye monastery was built in the second half of the 8th century by the King Trisong Detsen. The king invited Indian master Padma Sambhava (also named Lotus Buddha, while Tibetans call him Guru Rinpoche) to help to establish Buddhism in Tibet.

Samye is the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet.

SAMYE MONASTERY COMPLEX

The Samye monastery complex is in a shape of Mandala that represents the Buddhist Universe.

Utse, the main temple of the monastery represents Mount Meru. The surrounding twelve chapels represent continents (the larger four chapels) and subcontinents (the smaller eight chapels). There are also Sun and Moon temples to the south and north of the main chapel respectively.

There are four large colored stupas at the four directions from the main temple: the White Stupa with snow lions, Red Stupa or “Dharma Wheel” with lotus decorations, Black Stupa or “Nirvana” and Green Stupa “Tashigomang”  with sixteen doors.

The wall with 1008 stupas surrounds the entire monastery complex.

HISTORY OF SAMYE MONASTERY

Park in Samye complex

The monastery was built by Tibetan King Trisong Detsen, Padma Sambhava and Shantirakshita, who later became the first abbot of the monastery, in 750 – 779 AD. You can see statues of all three of them, commonly known as the “Abbot, Master and Dharma King” in the main Assembly Hall of the monastery.

After the construction of the monastery, first seven monks were ordained here by the first abbot Shantirakshita in Namthak Trimkhangling “The Pure Discipline” Chapel.

Utse, the main temple of the monastery had three floors each built in different style. The first floor is in Tibetan style, the second floor is in Chinese style and the third one in Indian.

Assembly hall in Samye monastery in Tibet

In Samye Indian and Tibetan scholars and masters translated first Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit to Tibetan.

Over its more than a thousand years long history, Samye was under influence of different sects of Tibetan Buddhism. However, because of its founder  Padma Sambhava, it is usually associated with the Red Hat sect (Nyingmapa). Padma Sambhava established the Nyingmapa sect in Tibet.

Samye monastery was damaged and rebuilt many times throughout its history, and it was badly damaged during the cultural revolution. In recent years many of the temples and chapels were rebuilt.

HOW TO PLAN A DAY TOUR TO SAMYE MONASTERY

Jampa Ling chapel in Samye

It is always best to visit Tibetan Monastery early in the morning, when all chapels are open. After you go through the main gate, head to the Protectors Chapel. You can go up to the roof of the chapel for a view around the monastery complex.

The next attraction is the main building of the complex – Utse temple. Three floors of the temple are built in distinct style.

If you have time, walk around the monastery in a clockwise direction and visit chapels in the complex. You can also visit all four stupas colored in white, red, green and black. On some days, you can see monk’s debates in a courtyard on the West side of the complex.

In the afternoon, walk to Hepo Ri hill dominating the scene. When you climb up to its top, you will see panoramic view of the complex and Brahmaputra River. If time permits, wait until the sunset to enjoy the glorious view in yellow and red hues of the sun.

WHERE TO STAY IN SAMYE

Guests visiting Samye Monastery usually stay in the monastery hotel located across the street from it. The hotel is simple, however, it offers all basic amenities: rooms with two twin beds, hot shower, tea kettle and free Wi-Fi. Your stay includes very simple breakfast.

WHERE TO EAT IN SAMYE

There are many small Tibetan serving traditional Tibetan food. Most of them are concentrated around the main gate of the monastery and on the street leading directly to the gate. In most restaurant you will find a menu with various Tibetan meals. Some restaurants serve Western breakfast to supplement simple breakfast served in a hotel tea house.
Near the gate you will see sellers offering fresh made potato fries and chips, as well as cold wheat and jelly noodles. Be careful with the spices!

PLACES TO VISIT NEAR SAMYE

TOURS YOU MIGHT LIKE

Tibetan monk meditating outside

10 DAYS MEDITATION TOUR

On this tour you will experience Tibetan culture, visit incredible landmarks and see the natural beauty of Tibet. At the same time, we will travel to the most peaceful and special places where the greatest Buddhist Lamas have been meditating for years.

We will spend time in the meditation caves, away from the busy world, make stops by the most impressive natural sightseeing spots, and, of course, visit the most important monastic centers, including Samye, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet.

Samye Monastery the first monastery in Tibet

6 DAYS TIBETAN CULTURAL HERITAGE TOUR

This private tour takes you from Lhasa to Yarlung Valley and Samye Monastery. Yarlung valley is the birthplace of Tibetan civilization. You can see Yumbulakhang, an ancient fort and the first surviving building in Tibet. After that you will visit Samye, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet.

Tent set up at 5000 meters trekking and camping in Tibet

10 DAYS GANDEN TO SAMYE TOUR

This trek goes along an incredibly beautiful route in Tibet. We start in Lhasa, where we visit the most important historical places and acclimatize before the trek.
During our trek, we will walk through high mountain passes (up to 5,250 meters), rocky mountains, vast green valleys, cross mountain rivers, and finally reach dense forest area.
We complete our trek at the Samye monastery, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet.
For those who feel adventurous, there are some one-day trekking options available near Samye. They can be added to your tour.

Yumbulakhang the oldest building in Tibet

7 DAYS PHOTO TOUR: THE CRADLE OF TIBETAN CIVILIZATION

This tour will take you to the birthplace of Tibetan culture. From these places Tibetan civilization as we know it emerged.  We start our tour in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. In Lhasa, we will visit Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera and Drepung monasteries. After that, we will drive to Ganden monastery.
After that, we will continue our journey to Yarlung Valley, the cradle of Tibetan civilization. Here, we will visit Yumbulakhang-the first building and fort, Samye -the first Buddhist monastery and Tradruk- one of the first temples.

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Samye Monastery the first monastery in Tibet

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