Why is Songzanlin Lamasery special
Songzanlin Lamasery is the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple complex in Yunnan Province. Reputed as the Little Potala Palace, Songzanlin Lamasery hosts more than 700 monks and possesses an important position in Yunnan and around the region.
Songzanlin Lamasery is also called Guihua Monastery. It was originally built in 1679, and finished in 1681. The lamasery has grown into the most important community of its kind in Yunnan. It is said that the Fifth Dalai Lama decided the location through divination and gave the name---Gedan Songzanlin to the lamasery. Naturally, throughout its history of over 300 years there have been ups and downs, but the strong faith of the people has always prevailed. And today it has become the seat of the leader of the Tibetan Buddhist theocracy in the big region around it and the east of Tibet.
Songzanlin Lamasery Highlights
The magnificent Songzanlin Lamasery complex situates on top of the Fopinshan Mountain. It consists of two lamaseries named Zhacang and Jikang lamasery, which are in the center of the highest point in the complex, taking on the form of five-story Tibetan watchtowers with five gates, numerous sub-lamaseries and hundreds of rooms for the monks. With the altitude of 3300 meters, the way up to the main prayer hall of the lamasery owns 146 steps. Sometimes, monks congregate in the main hall and chant lit by the light of numerous lamps. It allows you to trace mentally the pilgrimage route that generations of devout Buddhists living on the plateau take on their knees and foreheads every year.
On the way up to the main hall, there are study rooms for young monks who enter the monk hood at the age of 5. The young monks are trained in the scriptures and foundations of monastic life. Curriculums for the little monks are Buddhist canons, crafts, astrology and medicine. Afterwards, they will retreat for hours each day to reflect and meditate on the meaning and implications of Buddhist philosophy.
Songzanlin Lamasery owns many treasures, among which many are rare Buddhist scriptures written on palm leaves. The scriptures have been used by Dalai and Panchen Lamas. The invaluable cultural objects also include eight famous gold-covered sculptures of Sakyamuni. Colorful murals are painted by renowned lamas, showing guardian deities, scenes from the Lord Buddha’s life and the “wheel of life” that depicts the six realms of existence: heaven, demigods, humankind, hell, hungry ghosts and animals. While the hub in the wheel’s center symbolizes ignorance, hatred and greed, the three poisons of life.
The festivals held at the lamasery are also noteworthy. For example, the Gedong Festival is held in the late November each year. Buddhists around the region attend to worship. The Cham Dance is the climax, as performers put on masks and clothes that portray deities, ghosts and animals.