Why is Sakya Monastery special?
The monastery is 130km from Shigatse and Sakya means "Grey Soil" in Tibetan as it is surrounded by grey soil. Sakya is the main monastery of the Sakyapa Buddhism sect and is deemed as the Second Dunhuang. The Drum River divides the monastery into two parts, north and south.
This monastery is a "must" for visitors to Tibet. Sakya, meaning "Grey Soil" in Tibetan since the soil surrounding it is gray; its walls were painted in red, white and grey strips, which represent Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani respectively.
Sakya Monastery Highlights
The "Second Dunhuang"
Sakya Monastery, reputed as as the "Second Dunhuang", is the first Sakyapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism created by its initiator Khon Konchog Gyalpo in 1073 from which Sakyapa rose and once ruled Tibet, occupied 14,700 square km.
It was shaped in square, and the trove including “Beiye Sutra”, “Shouxing Picture” etc. Sakya Monastery not only records the history of the combination of religion and politics in Tibet, but also deemed as the sign that Tibet was brought into Chinese domain officially. Sakya Monastery has 900 years history and the Sakya Sect ruled Tibet for more than 70 years.
The Southern Monastery
The Southern Monastery was built like a fortress and was surrounded by a moat. Construction of the monastery began in 1268 and was led by Benqen Sagya Sangbo under the commission of Choygal Phakpa, the fifth descendent of Sakyapa Sect.
Sakya Kloster is famed as the 'Second Dunhuang' due to its colossal collection of numerous Tibetan Buddhist scriptures, murals and Thangkas. According to statistics, about 40,000 volumes of scriptures are housed there.
A wooden bookshelf which is about 57 meters (187 feet) long, 11 meters high (36 feet) and one meter wide (three feet) has 464 grids. More than ten thousand scriptures are housed on the shelf. Among them, the most precious is Burde Gyaimalung, which records Tibetan religion, history, philosophy, literature, agriculture and animal husbandry.
It is 1.8 meters (six feet) long, 1.3 meters (four feet) wide and 0.67 meter (two feet) thick and boasts the biggest scriptures in the world. Additionally, it also houses 21 volumes of Buddhist scriptures written on Pattra leaves in Sanskrit. Each consists of one hundred to two hundred pages and four-color illustrations. They are the most precious sutras in the world.
Murals and 'Thangkas'
Sakya Kloster has many murals and 'Thangkas'. Most of the murals are from the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Among them, the most outstanding and precious are the murals which depict portraits of the former Sakya ancestors, Phakpa's meeting with Kublai Khan (the founder of the Yuan Dynasty) and mandalas.
There are over 3,000 'Thangkas'. The 360 from Song (960-1279), Yuan and Ming (1368-1644) Dynasties are the most precious.
The Main Chanting Hall, also called Lakhang Chenmo in Tibetan, is a must-see for all visitors. Covering an area of about 5,800 square meters (1.4 acres), Lakhang Chenmo can hold about ten thousand monks chanting sutras together. In the hall are enshrined three Buddhas - Dipamkarara, Sakyamuni and Maitreya, and five Sakyapa ancestors.
There are forty huge vermilion pillars supporting the ceiling, four of which are about one meter (three feet) in diameter. Each of the four pillars has its own story. Gyina Seqen Garna was bestowed by Kublai Khan. Chongbo Garwa, Dabo Garwa and Nabo Chaza Garwa were carried to the monastery by a wild yak, a tiger and the God of the Sea.
In addition, on the second floor of the hall are 63 murals of mandalas, the best preserved in the monastery.