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Palpung Monastery

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Palpung Monastery Introduction

Palpung Monastery is located in Esela Piedmont, about 75 km southeast of Derge County. With an altitude of 3900 m, it is the religious center of Tibetan Buddhism of Kagyu sect in Khampa region. Along with Tsurphu Monastery, they are both respected as the sacred monasteries of Kagyu sect. In Tibetan, Palpung means “place that gathers treasure and auspiciousness”. Palpung Monastery was built in 12th century, with a history of about 900 years till now. Destroyed by warfare and under the influence of religious disputes over centuries, Palpung Monastery has not developed and grown stronger. Until 1728, with the approval of Denba Tsering, Headman of Derge, 8th Tai Situ Rinpoche Chögyi Jungney constructed today’s Palpung Monastery on the basis of its original building. Asked by the Headman to stay, Chögyi Jungney took the seat of Palpung Monastery, then was worshipped as the first Tai Situpa Rinpoche.

Palpung Monastery

Among all the Tibetan Buddhism monasteries, buildings of Gelug Sect are the most grand and resplendent ones for having scripture hall and main hall, which, in contrast, overshadow the architectural scale of other sects’. Kagyu Sect emphasizes the learning of esoteric Dharma, based on one-to-one imparting pattern, so there is no need of large building complexion with scripture hall and other facilities. Though architectures of Kagyu Sect are in smaller scale, Palpung Monastery is not less glorious than Gelug Sect’s. The grandeur of Palpung Monastery is a wonder and earned the good reputation of “miniature of the Potala Palace”. Chögyi Jungney, the chief designer, travelled all over Tibetan areas, Nepal, India and other places for a long period and delved into Tibetan religion paintings and architectural art. During the reconstruction of Palpung Monastery, Chögyi Jungney blended traditional Kagyu Sect’s style with exotic elements of Gelug Sect and Indian temples. As a result, Palpung Monastery is a great integration with the grandeur of Gelug Sect and the delicacy of Kagyu Sect. The building complexes are ingeniously arranged in accordance with the mountain range, with aloft prayer flags and splendid gold top, which could be sighted 10 li away. The main hall “Zhuolakong” on the ridge is a three-storey building, built in a quadrangle shape, with 24m in height. The eight thick stilts, made of whole-tree with thousands years, enhance the great momentum of the hall. The second floor is the room for Rinpoche, which is glorious with carved beams and painted rafters. Murals in the hall tell ample stories: Buddha Jataka, the six great divisions in the wheel of karma, etc. with vivid and gorgeous images. After renovation and expansion through generations of Rinpoche, the main hall turned out to be exquisitely extravagant inside, holding numerous treasures and delicate Buddha statues.

Palpung Monastery

The foundation of Palpung Monastery expedited the political and religious development across the local area. The 8th Tai Situpa Rinpoche was honored as “Karmapa” by the central government. He, on behalf of Palpung Monastery, halved the jurisdiction of population and territory from the Headman of Derge. Meanwhile, serving as the chief family temple of Headman, Palpung Monastery plays a weighty role in maintaining and safeguarding the reign system, which combines politics and religion. This monastery enjoys superior political privileges because the Tai Situ has rights to attend the Supreme Executive Council, held by the Headman of Derge. Local affairs, concerning politics, economy, military, culture, management of human resource, inheritors of the Headman, etc. cannot be approved by Headman himself without consulting Tai Situpa. Palpung Monastery has jurisdiction over more than 100 subsidiary temples, scattering across Tibet, Yunnan, Qinghai Province and foreign lands like India, Bhutan and Nepal. For centuries, Palpung Monastery produced many eminent monks, with voluminous works left, which refer to multiple fields as Buddhism, astronomy, literature, medicine, history, painting and so on.

Palpung Monastery

Having a long history, the magnificent Palpung Monastery stored profound collections and was home to many eminent monks. Since opening to the outside in 1981, this monastery has been the gathering place of monks of Tibetan Buddhism from all parts. Monks all around Tibetan visit here to live and practice. Some followers of Kagyu sect in Bhutan, Nepal, Sikkim, India and other countries of Europe and America, also come here to worship. So, this monastery enjoys a booming pilgrimage and worldwide fame. In 1991, officers from Paul Getty Conservation Fund (American) paid a special visit here, and intended to fund the project of maintaining and conserving the Palpung Monastey.

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