Located in the quiet piedmont area of the Shannan Region, the Samye Monastery is the first temple built in Tibet and the first complete with the three Buddhist jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. With these unique features, this splendid temple has become an attraction for visitors from near and far.
The Tibetan people believe that souls of the dead will not be incarnated unless the deceased has reached Samya before. The charm of the monastery not only comes from its long history, but also lies in the structure of the monastery, the religious significance and the enjoyment of the trip itself.
The three-storey Wuzi Hall is the soul of the whole monastery, with its special design. All of the layers follow different styles, the bottom Tibetan, the middle Han and the top Indian. Hence the monastery is also called the 'Three-styled Temple'.
There are also many substantial murals. On the porch of the middle storey is inscribed the reputed 'Painted Historical Records' of Tibet, which contains the religious history of Tibet and many related legends. The murals depicting the 'Historical Records of Samye Monastery' and the 'Biography of Padmasambhava' on the other two levels are also of high aesthetic value.
There is also an ancient stele and a bell made during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) along with a pair of stone lions. On the stele Trisong Detsen's edicts for establishing Buddhism as the state religion in 779 are recorded. The bell was the first one made in Tibetan history and is said to memorize the third concubine of the Detsen who led 30 aristocratic women to renounce the world and who later became the first group of nuns in Tibet.
The Samye Monastery is renowned for the characteristic art of its buildings and the vivid murals as well as other ancient relics stored within it. The whole construction of the temple is very grandiose and complicated. It replicates the universe described in the sutras exactly. The central world Mount Meru is represented by the majestic Wuzi Hall.
The Sun and Moon chapels stand in the north and south as the sun and moon in the universe. Four larger halls and eight smaller halls are distributed around all sides of the central hall, symbolizing the four large continents and eight small ones. In the four corners lie the Red, White, Black and Green Pagodas guarding the Dharma like the Heavenly Kings.
A circular wall surrounds the temple as if marking the periphery of the world. The layout of Samye Monastery resembles the Mandala in the Esoteric Buddhism.
Location: at the foot of Mount Haibu Rishen, north of the Yarlung Tsangpo River
Transportation: You can travel there by a regular bus from Lhasa to Samye Ferry and cross the river by boat or bridge. Then you can take the special monastery bus to get there.
Ticket: CNY 40
Opening hours: 09:00 to 16:00
For dining and accommodation, the monastery includes a restaurant and guest house. Alternatively there are other restaurants outside the Eastern Gate and guest houses in the nearby village. When visiting, bring a flashlight as it is quite dark in the halls.