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China: Pelkor Chöde monastery

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Pelkor Chöde monastery | China | Asia

[Visited: April 2007]

The day before, I had seen the great way Pelkor Chöde monastery is nestled against a hill, with a Thangka wall behind it, effectively creating a protected bowl. In it, Pelkor Chöde monastery, founded in the early 15th century, combined three different orders of Tibetan buddhism, which in itself makes it a special monastery. Of the three, the dominant order was the Gelugpa order. The impact of the Chinese invasion in 1959 can easily be seen when comparing the current state of the monastery with old pictures. The courtyard around the main buildings, the enormous Kumbum and the assembly hall, is largely empty now.

Picture of Pelkor Chöde monastery (China): Tibetan pilgrim walking past the famous Gyantse Kumbum

After entering, I resisted the temptation to continue straight into Gyantse Kumbum, and climbed to the Thangka wall instead. The reddish wall runs all around the ridge of the hill behind the monastery compound. Quite a steep walk quickly took me to the wall, and when I turned around, I was very glad I had come. Below me, I had a great view not only on the Kumbum, but also the straight street leading to Gyantse Dzong or fortress. When I climbed one of the buildings integrated into the wall, I could see on the other side, where I spotted more, obviously much smaller, temples.

Picture of Pelkor Chöde monastery (China): Prayer flags flying over the Thangka wall of Pelkor Chöde monastery

After enjoying the view for a while, made more beautiful by wonderfully shaped clouds rolling in, I first visited the assembly hall. It was quite busy with both tourists and Tibetans, and offered dark chapels with statues, and pilgrims topping up the yak butter lamps. The Gyantse Kumbum was calling, however, so I went to the large white building with the gold spiral top. The stupa, or chörten, is supposed to have 108 chapels on its four floors - 108 being a sacred number for Tibetan buddhists. Each chapel is uniquely decorated with murals, some with statues. Especially the murals looked magnificent to me. For Tibetan pilgrims, walking up the stupa and visiting the chapels equals walking up a Tantric path. When I got out of the top floor, I found myself under one of the peaceful set of eyes staring from the tower of the stupa to the distance. From here, I had a nice view over the paintings on the ceiling below the golden dome above me.

Picture of Pelkor Chöde monastery (China): Pelkor Chöde monastery with Gyantse Kumbum
Picture of Pelkor Chöde monastery (China): Gyantse Kumbum, largest stupa of Tibet: close-up
Picture of Pelkor Chöde monastery (China): Gyantse Kumbum, Pelkor Chöde monastery and Gyantse Dzong in the background
Picture of Pelkor Chöde monastery (China): Pelkor Chöde monastery and surroundings seen from the top of Gyantse Dzong
Picture of Pelkor Chöde monastery (China): Thangka wall of Pelkor Chöde monastery with clouds
Picture of Pelkor Chöde monastery (China): Pelkor Chöde monastery: living quarters of monks
Picture of Pelkor Chöde monastery (China): Prayer wheels leading to assembly hall and Gyantse Kumbum
Picture of Pelkor Chöde monastery (China): Pilgrims and yak butter lamps in Pelkor Chöde monastery
Picture of Pelkor Chöde monastery (China): Mural of Gyantse Kumbum: eight-handed deity
Picture of Pelkor Chöde monastery (China): Pilgrim bending down on kora around main temple of Pelkor Chöde monastery
Picture of Pelkor Chöde monastery (China): Top of Gyantse Kumbum: eyes above the entrance
Picture of Pelkor Chöde monastery (China): Donation box in Gyantse Kumbum, Pelkor Chöde monastery
Picture of Pelkor Chöde monastery (China): Protector deity of Gyantse Kumbum with skulls around his head

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