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pelkor chode monastery

Why visit Pelkor Choede Monastery

Inside of the Gyantse monastery
Inside of the Gyantse monastery

The red-walled Pelkor Chode was once a compound of 15 monasteries that brought together three different orders of Tibetan Buddhism, a rare in stance of multi-denominational tolerance. Nine of the monasteries belonged to Gelugpa sect, three belonged to Sakyapa, and another three belonged to the obscure Buton suborder whose head monastery was Shalu near Shigatse.

The monastery is famous for it’s Kumbum stupa, the largest chorten in Tibet and one of the architectural wonders. The white chorten contains a seemingly endless series of mural-filled chapels and offers an outstanding view from its upper levels.

Location

Pelkor Choede monastery is located on the West side of Gyantse. It was once the third largest city in Tibet, after Lhasa and Shigatse. In the 15th century Gyantse served as a capital of a kingdom and was on the intersection of the trade routes between the South and Lhasa.

Nowadays, Gyantse is a small city with some old quarters and traditional Tibetan architecture.

History

Palkhor Choede monastery in Gyantse and the old fort in Gyantse, Tibet
The Buddhist Kumbum chorten, Pelkor Chode Monastery and Gyantse town in Tibet

Pelkor Choede monastery’ s main temple was founded in 1418 by the Prince of Gyantse. The prince was a devotee of Kedrub Je, one of the disciples of Je Tsongkhapa. Kedrub Je was recognized as the first Panchen Lama. At the time of construction, Sakya sect had a leading role in the Gyantse region (Read more about different sects of Tibetan Buddhism»).

Later, as the monastery was growing, more buildings and colleges were added to the complex. There were eighteen different colleges In its heyday. These colleges belonged to different sects: Sakyapa, Gelugpa and Zhalupa suborder.

Places to Visit Near Pelkor Choede Monastery

Kumbum Stupa in Gyantse, Tibet
Kumbum Stupa in Gyantse, Tibet

Kumbum Stupa

The Stupa (or Chorten as Tibetans call it) is located within the monastery walls and it is difficult to miss. The 32 meters/ 105 ft high structure is the highest stupa in Tibet. It contains 108 cells with various wall paintings and statues. From the higher levels of the Kumbum Stupa you will get a fantastic view on the monastery, surrounding fort (Dzong) and Gyantse town.

Gyantse old fort
Gyantse old fort

Gyantse Dzong

The old fort of Gyantse (called Dzong in Tibetan) surrounds Pelkor Choede monastery complex and Gyantse town. The original fort is from the 13th century, it was further renovated and reconstructed later.

Yamdrok Lake
Yamdrok Lake

Yamdrok Lake

The gorgeous turquoise-colored lake is located about 90 km away from Gyantse. The lake attracts thousands of tourists. It is a sacred lake for Tibetans, they dont catch fish in the lake, and they don’t swim in it. And you can enjoy it’s beauty from the height of the mountain pass or come down to the lake shore.

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