Samye Monastery
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Samye Monastery

Update: Jan. 7th, 2013

Samye Monastery

Samye Monastery is located on the northern bank of Yarlung Zambo River in Chanang County, Shannan Prefecture. It was built in 8th century under the reign of Tubo Kingdom. It is the first monastery exclusive for the tonsured Buddhists in Tibet. Samye Monastery was listed as a key cultural relic under state protection in 1996. It was also approved as a state AAAA-class scenic spot in 2005.

With a history of more than 1000 years, Samye Monastery is the most famous and oldest monastery among the Tibetan historical and cultural relics. It is also the most magnificent and splendid building during the reign of Tubo Kingdom. There are rich and precious relics collected in Samye Monastery, including the historical and religious documents, various statues and murals. It has been praised as one of the oldest library which stored the ancient culture of Tibet.

Samye Monastery – History

Samye Monastery is praised as "the first monastery in Tibet". Its site was selected by Padmasambhava; he found this place is very auspicious and decided to build a monastery here. Samye Monastery was designed by Shantarakshita and he also supervised the construction of the monastery.

Buddhism was transmitted to Tibet during the reign of Songtsen Gambo in the 7th century. To enhance the domination of the Tubo Kingdom and weaken the influence of Tibetan Bon, Songtsen Gambo greatly supported the development of Tibetan Buddhism. Both the Jokhang Temple and Romoche Monastery were constructed during this period.

Samye Monastery experienced several restorations after several fire disasters. Its original buildings have long disappeared. Most of the existing buildings in the monastery were built by the Seventh Dalai Lama.

The prosperity of Samye Monastery is greatly due to the efforts of the Tenth Panchen Lama. It is still an important pilgrimage monastery and attraction in Tibet.

Samye Monastery – Architecture

Samye Monastery is noted for its large scale and integrated architectural style. The main building of Samye Monastery is the three-storey magnificent Central Hall. The first storey is of the Tibetan architectural style, the second storey is of the Han style and the third storey is of Indian style.

The layout of constructions of Samye Monastery forms a giant mandala (a representation of the Buddhist universe). Samye Monastery was modeled after the Odandabodhi Monastery in Magadha in ancient India.

Samye Monastery is surrounded by a wall stacked by 1008 tiny chortens (1008 is a sacred number in Buddhism). There is a gate at each of the cardinal point.

Samye Monastery – Cultural Relics

The murals in Samye Monastery are of abundant contents and various stories. Among which the most famous one is the Record of Tibetan History. It is 92 meters long and presented the religious description of Tibet and some ancient legends. There is also the famous Biography of Padmasambhava (a famous Indian Buddhist) and Panorama of Samye Monastery, as well as the murals presented the folk customs of ancient Tibetan.

There are a lot of statues of the figures related to the history of Samye Monastery, including Padmasambhava, Trisong Detsen, Shantarakshita and Songtsen Gambo. They are still being highly respected since they did great contribution to the construction and development of Samye Monastery.

There are also other valuable cultural relics in Samye Monastery, such as the bronze bells carved with beats and the tablets recorded the development and history of Buddhism.

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