Founded in 1416, Drepung Monastery on the outskirts of Lhasa was once Tibet's largest and most influential monastery, with over 10,000 monks. Today, Drepung houses about 700 monks and attracts pilgrims and visitors from around the world.
Drepung Monastery was the home of the Dalai Lamas before the Potala Palace was built in the 17th century. Resembling a heap of white rice from a distance, it was dubbed as "Monastery of the Collecting-Rice" (Drepung Gompa) in Tibetan.
The first floor of the Assembly Hall holds a striking statue of Dalai Lama XIII, magnificently lit by filtered sunshine and pungent yak butter lamps. Readings of the scriptures are often held here at midday, during which novices race one another to fetch tea from the kitchen for their elders.
The most revered image at Drepung is a 15m (49-ft.) tall statue of the 8-year old Maitreya Buddha (the future Buddha), designed by Tsongkapa and housed on the third floor of the main building. Visitors are offered holy water. To receive it, cup your right hand above your left, take a sip, and splash the rest on your head.
The second floor houses Buddhist scriptures and the first floor contains multiple Buddha statues and other decorations. There is a sacred mirror in the chapel that is located at the north of second floor, and it is said that the mirror can cure the facial diseases when people gaze into it. Several courtyards in the forest around the monastery are used by the monks for debating the sutras (Buddhist scriptures). The winners of the debates can take a test to earn the senior degree of Geshi.
Location: at the foot of the Mountain Gambo Utse
Transportation: The best way is to take a taxi which costs about CNY 20.
Ticket: CNY 55
Opening hours: 09:00 to 17:00