photo of the day

Gyantse Kumbum, statue of Yum Chenmo  / Prajnaparamita in one of the chapels

 

Here is some more information about Gyantse Kumbum, excerpted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palcho_Monastery:

The Palcho Monastery or Pelkor Choede Monastery or Shekar Gyantse is the main monastery in Gyantse, Tibet, next to the Dzong or fort. It is most notable for its Kumbum, which has 108 chapels in its four floors.

The Tsuklakhang, the main temple of the monastery was built 1418-1428 by Rabten Kunzang Phak, the second Prince of Gyantse, who was a devotee of Kedrub Je (1385-1438), one of Tsongkapa’s leading disciples later recognised as the 1st Panchen Lama. It became an important centre of the Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

In 1904, the town and monastery were attacked by British soldiers and, although most of the damage was later restored, bullet holes from this attack remain in the monastery to this day.

It was partially destroyed in 1959 after a revolt against Chinese rule.

It was ransacked again during the Cultural Revolution, but has since been largely restored.

…Architecturally, Pelkhor monastery is a fusion of Han, Tibetan and Nepali architecture. The most striking architecture in the complex, a symbol of Gyantse, is the Bodhi Dagoba (Tibetan name: Pelkhor Choede), popularly called as the ‘Kumbum’. It is a 32 metres (100 ft) high structure, a nine-tier building with 108 gates (108 interpreted as nine-tier structure representing space multiplied by the time element of 12 zodiac signs), and 76 chapels and shrines; out of the nine floors, the first five are square in shape while the rest are circular giving it a pyramidal appearance. It is also given the name “the Ten Thousand Buddha Pagodas”, as it has enshrined about ten thousand figures of Buddhas as images and murals. It has hundred chapels overlapping each other, which is called the ‘tower upon tower’ structure. The chapels have the finest display of Tibetan art in “vibrant colour and naturalistic style”; in the faces of the murals Chinese images are discerned. Three Buddhist sects namely, Sakyapa, Kadampa and Gelugpa are represented here. It is considered the largest of the three Kumbums in Tibet; the other two Kumbams are the Jonang Kumbum and Ching Riwoche.

A couple of photos that I like by other Flickr members are here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/haxheaven/4251286810/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/haxheaven/4250514571/

To Yamdrok Lake, Gyantse, and Shigatse

yamdrok-4

Yamdrok Lake

 

 

The China-Nepal Friendship Highway (Hwy.  318) runs from Lhasa southwest through the Himalaya, to the Chinese border at Zhamgmu.  After three days in Lhasa, our itinerary took us to Yamdrok Lake and then to  Gyantse, where we spent one night, and then on to Shigatse, for another night’s stay.

 

 

yamdrok-2

Ready for its close-up:  rent-a-yak, Yamdrok Lake

 

 

 

From my notes:  Tuesday, July 13

Day 4:  Hard to believe that the Tibet trip is already half over. We left Lhasa today at 8 AM – after I’d had a satisfying triple cappuccino and a slice of lucious Cheesecake at The Summit coffee house of Beijing East Rd.

We stopped for a photo op at an 11-th century Buddha rock carving outside Lhasa. Our 4-WD Land Cruiser [me eternally in the front seat, a concession to advanced age and/or status] droved through some of the most amazing scenery I’ve ever seen:  rock, sand, rivers, lakes, scrubby vegetation, grazing yaks, the Gamta Pass, then to Yamdrok Lake, one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet.

Lunch buffet in a nondescript nowhere town, then drove through a delicious and refreshing rain.  Oh yes, we saw a glacier – I ran through the cold and wet to the restroom, then jumped back in the vehicle.

Before we knew it, we had arrived in Gyantse and the gate of the Palkor Choede Monastery. We would visit one of the highlights of the tour for me, the famous Gyantse Kumbum.

 

 

gyantse-kumbum-4

Gyantse Kumbum, Palkor Choede Monastery, originally built in 1497 by a prince of Gyantse

 

 

 

Kumbum in Tibetan means  “One hundred thousand holy images.” From Wikipedia:

The Kumbum or great gomang(many-doored) chorten at Gyantse is a three dimensional mandala, meant to portray the Buddhist cosmos. The Kumbum, like other mandalas, which are portrayed by a circle within a square, enables the devotee to take part in the Buddhist perception of the universe and can depict one’s potential as they move through it. Mandalas are meant to aid an individual on the path to enlightenment. The Kumbum holds a vast number of images of deities throughout its structure with Vajradhara (Sanskrit:Vajradhāra, Tibetan: rdo rje ‘chang (Dorje Chang), English: Vajraholder), the cosmic Buddha, at the top.

 

gyantse-4

Detail of sculpture in one of the 108 chapels, Gyantse Kumbum

 

 

 

gyantse-pigeons

Pigeons on a ledge, Gyantse Kumbum

 

 

 

gyantse-ancient-text

Page from sacred texts, main assembly hall, Palkor Choede Monastery

 

 

 

gyantse-candle

Yak butter lamp, Palkor Choede Monastery

 

 

 

Notes (continued):  The real reason I was here was for Kumbum Stupa (or chorten).  I did all five levels – I think there are 7, but the top ones are closed off. Got some great interior shots of some of the small chapels.  There are superb views of the Gyantse Fort from the top level.

Sharing a room at a local hotel for 50 RMB.  Dinner at a local foreign restaurant – OK curried potatoes.  Walked to Gyantse Fort and part of the way up – no ticket booth or entrance fee, a rarity on this trip – followed by a big mangy black dog, who may have been the fort’s “Guardian.” Didn’t make it to the top, but watched the setting sun hit the mountains sideways, throwing them into relief and seeming to make them move.

Tomorrow: Shigatse.

 

 

 

gyantse-fort-from-kumbum

Gyantse Fort stands guard over the town. This became my favorite building, outside the Potala, in Tibet. You don’t get more dramatic than this.

 

 

 gyantse-fort-view-from-hotel

Gyantse Fort, view from the hallway window of my hotel. When the British invaded Tibet in 1904, the local Tibetans defended their town from this fort.

 

 

 gyantse-fort-3

Gyantse Fort: evening ascent, with dog.

 

 

 

Day 5:  Shigatse

Shigatse is Tibet’s second-largest city, and is home to Tashilhunpo Monastery, founded in 1447 by the first Dalai Lama. Tashilhunpo is important as the seat of the Panchen Lama, second only to the Dalai Lama. Our guide emphasized that the Dalai Lama is an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, Bodhisattva of Compassion, while the Panchen Lama is an incarnation of Amitabha, “The Buddha of Infinite Light.”

Notable sights at Tashilhunpo included the world’s largest bronze statue of Buddha, and the funeral stupa of the 10th Panchen Lama, who led an interesting but rather tragic life, becoming a member of China’s National Assembly, then dying rather suddenly in 1989 after affirming his loyalty to the Dalai Lama.

 

 

 

shigatse-golden-roof

Tashilhumpo Monastery, golden roof

 

 

 

shigatse-windows

Tashilhumpo Monastery, windows

 

 

tashilhunpo-prayer-beads-2

Tashilhumpo Monastery, passing of the prayer beads

 

 

My hotel room in Shigatse was the most comfortable so far on this trip, although I hardly slept because of the altitude.  I took a long walk in the sweltering sun to look at Shigatse Fort, a reconstruction of the original destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, and to explore a local street market.  In the evening I went to a park outside the Panchen Lama’s summer palace, and watched the mountains disappear into dusk as the sun set.

Stay tuned:  next stop, Mount Everest