Drepung Monastery

Drepung Monastery is located at the foot of Gambo Utse Mountain, 7km west of Lhasa. It was purportedly the largest monastery in the world (about 10,000 monks in residence at its peak time) and served as the power seat for the first through fifth Dalai Lamas before the fifth Dalai Lama established the dGa' ldan Pho Brang Dynasty (1635-1642) and relocated to Potala Palace.

Drepung Monastery is the white architectural complex rather than a mere temple dotting the hillside. The complex spreads in layer and each building unit highlights position and potency of the Buddha hall by lowering the standing level of other unit parts--courtyard and sutra hall. Drepung, covering 250,000 square meters (about 299,000 square yards), is mainly composed of the Ganden Potrang, Coqen Hall, four Zhacangs (or Tantric colleges), and Kamcuns. The residence for the second through the fifth Dalai Lamas of Ganden Potrang, fine Buddha statues and precious sutra scriptures, sutra-learning life can be viewed here. And the red socialist characters painted by the Red Guards during Cultural Revolution time are still visible on the chapel wall. Debating also takes place from 02:30pm-4:30pm, Mon.-Sat. in a small garden shaded by old trees. It is less mass and less touristy than that the Sera. Photos are allowed and charged extra fee.

Shoton Festival (in Tibetan late June and early July), is also one of the main events that bustle this monastery area with tens of thousands of worshipers. The thangka unfolding ceremony will takes places at the painted-stone-bedecked hill slope at about 8'o clock and lasts only 1 hour or so to avoid the long sunray exposure. Following the unfolding Sakyamuni thangka, the feast and the opera performances will be on.

Drepung opens from 09:00am-05:00pm. Some places do not allow the female entry. Unlike most of the Tibetan monastery or temple, photos are allowed inside Drepung and extra charge for each room is required. Many monks in the monastery can speak English and it would be a more fruitful visit to have their companion.

Since Drepung is located outside of town, few countryside pilgrims in usual time, scattered small dwellings, Tibetan women rinsing spiritual wares along the streams, monk's roaming livestock are easily seen here and contribute to a tranquil experience.