Tsedang Travel Guide
Tsedang, the capital of Lhokha Prefecture, is reputed as “the cradle of Tibetan Civilization”, and located at the middle and lower reaches of Yarlung Zangbo River. As the birthplace of earliest Tibetans, it enjoys a comparatively mild climate and vast fertile land. A field in the village near Tsedang Town is said to be the first farming field in Tibet.
Tsedang boasts a combination of natural and cultural scenery. Spectacular ranges, beautiful lakes, numerous springs and peaceful river valleys constitute its featured landscapes. Famous tourist sights in this area include the first monastery in Tibet—Samye Monastery, the first palace in Tibet—Yungbulakhang, one of the three holy lakes in Tibet—Yamdrok-Tso, burial site of Tibetan Kings, Trandruk Monastery, Samding Monastery…
Places to visit in Tsedang
Chim-puk Hermitage is a warren of caves northeast of Samye that was once a meditation retreat for Gulug Rinpoche. After crossing through desert-like territory for a couple of hours, the path ascends into the surprisingly lush area in which the caves are found. It’s an ideal route for day hike. It is said that there are 108 meditation caves, 108 spring mouths and 108 sky burial grounds. This is no doubt a popular day hike for travellers spending a few days at Samye. Were you lucky enough, you might find a pilgrim truck heading up there in the early morning. You could also hire a tractor in Samye. Ask at the reception of the Monastery Guesthouse. Otherwise the walk takes around four or five hours up and three hours down. Take plenty of water.
Embraced by lush hills on 3 sides and facing the broad Yarlung Tsangbo Valley, the Chim-puk Hermitage is renowned not only for being the most famous meditation place of Tibetan Buddhism, but also for its unique humane climate and beautiful scenery presented at an altitude of 4,300m.
Numerous small retreat caves and hermitages are located on the hills, among which those once inhabited by Padmasambhava (known as Gulug Rinpoche to Tibetans), Yeshe Tsogyal (student of Padmasambhava) and Trisong Detsen (742-798, the 5th Tibetan king) are the most prestigious. Handprints and footprints impressed on rocks can be found everywhere, and the enormous footprint on the Guruta Rock is said to have been left by Padmasambhava.
Currently, the caves are inhabited by over 200 Buddhists, 70% of whom are nuns. Leading a simple life which might be unbearable for the commoners, these dedicated Buddhists believe that the Chim-puk Hermitage– the place in which Padmasambhava meditated and taught Dharma to his disciples– will bring them more spiritual achievements in meditation.
Trandruk Monastery is one of the earliest Buddhist monasteries in Tibet, having been founded at the same time as the Jokhang Monastery and Ramoche Monastery in Lhasa. Dating back to the 7th century reign of Songtsen Gampo, it is also one of Tibet’s demoness-subduing temples. In order to build the monastery here, Songtsen Gampo had first to take the form of a hawk in order to overcome a local dragon, a miracle that is commemorated in the monastery’s name. Trandruk Monastery was significantly enlarged in the 14th century and again under the auspices of the 5th and 7th Dalai Lamas.
The entrance of the monastery opens into a courtyard area ringed by cloisters. The building to the rear of the courtyard has a ground plan similar to that of the Jokhang.
The principle chapel, to the rear center, holds a statue of Tara known as Drolma Sheshema, next to the 5 Dhyani buddhas. The Tuje Lhakhang to the right has statues of Chenresig, Jampelyang and China Dorje, who form the Tibetan trinity known as the Rigsum Gompo. The stove to the right is said to have belonged to Princess Wencheng, the Chinese wife of Songtsen Gampo.
Upstairs and to the rear is a central chapel containing a famous Thangka of Chenresig made up of 29,000 pearls as well as an ancient applique Thangka showing Sakyamuni.
Samye Monastery is thought to be Tibet’s 1st monastery and its 1st university. It has been deconstructed and reconstructed a number of times. The monastery is thought to have been founded in the 8th century by King Trisong Detsen, in consultation with Indian sage Padmasambhava. The temple was destroyed during civil war in the 11th century, by fire in the 11th and 17th centuries, by earthquake in the 18th century. Today, only a fraction of its original 108 buildings survive or have been reconstructed. Adaptations for visitors within the walls include the monastery guesthouse with restaurant and monastery shop. Most Samye villagers live outside the walls.
Samye Monastery’s layout is based on Buddhist cosmology: it is a mandalic 3D replica of the Tibetan Buddhist universe. The temple complex has been constructed according to the principles of geomancy, a concept derived from India. At the center of the Tibetan Buddhist universe lies a mythical palace on top of Mt. Meru, which at Samye is symbolized by the main temple (Utse). Surrounding this is a great “ocean”, with 4 great island-continents, and 8 subcontinents.
The complex is bounded by an oval wall pierced by 4 gates and topped by 1,008 small chortens that represent Chakravala, a ring of mountains that surrounds the universe. The wall itself has been hastily restored, using a large amount of concrete.
There are currently about a hundred monks attached to the main temple. The monastery was built long before the rise of the different sects in Tibet. In the late 8th century, Trisong Detsen presided over a debate at Samye between Indian Buddhists and Chinese Zen Buddhists concerning which type of Buddhism should prevail in Tibet. The Indians won. Since that time, the monastery has come under the influence of various sect, such as the Nyingma, Sakya, and Gelug traditions. Even today, influence are eclectic.
The 3-storey temple faces to the east. The upper storeys were removed during the Cultural Revolution, but the gleaming roof was restored in 1989. To the left of the main entrance is a 5m-high stone obelisk; erected by King Songtsen Gampo, it proclaims the Indian school of Buddhism to be the state religion. Inside the main assembly hall of the Utse are statues of the early kings, and images of Padmasambhava and Atisha. The inner sanctum contains a beautiful Sakyamuni image. To the right side of the assembly hall is a Gonkhang or tantric protector chapel with odds and ends like a stuffed snake and an old musket. To the left of the assembly hall is the Avalokitesvara Chapel, with a fine bas-relief portrait of the bodhisattva.
Upstairs you can access several chapels and might even be allowed to view the former quarters of the Dalai Lama. On the 2nd floor is an open gallery with a long string of murals, some depicting the history of Tibet; there is also a damaged mural of the fabled land of Shambhala here.
A fine, tapering finger of a structure that sprouts from a craggy ridge overlooking the patchwork fields of the Yarlung Tsangpo Valley, Yumbulagang is considered the oldest building in Tibet. Most of what can be seen today dates from 1982. It is still a remarkably impressive sight, with a lovely setting.
The founding of Yumbulagang stretches back into legend and myth. The standard line is that is was built for King Nyentri Tsenpo, a historic figure who has long since blurred into mythology. Legend has him descending from the heavens and being received as a king by the people of hte Yarlung Tsangpo Valley. More than 400 Buddhist holy texts are said to have fallen from the heavens at Yumbulagang in the 5th century. Murals at Yumbulagang depict the magical arrival of the texts.
There has been no conclusive dating of the original Yumbulagang , although some accounts indicate that the foundations may have been laid more than 2000 years ago. It is more likely that is dates from the 7th century, when Tibet first came under the rule of Songtsen Gampo.
The plan of Yumbulagang indicates that it was originally a fortress and much larger than the present structure. Today it serves as a chapel and is inhabited by around 8 monks who double as guards– in 1999 some 30 statues were stolen from the main chapel. Its most impressive feature is its tower, and the prominence of Yumbulagang on the Yarlung skyline belies the fact that this tower is only 11 meters tall.
The ground-floor chapel is consecrated to the ancient kings of Tibet. A central buddha image is flanked by Nyentri Tswnpo on the left and Songtsen Gampo on the right. Other kings and ministers line the side walls. There is another chapel on the upper floor with an image of Chenresig, similar to the one found in the Potala Palace. There are some excellent frescoes by the door that depict, among other things, Nyentri Tsenpo descending from heaven, Trandruk Monastery, and Gelug Rinpoche arriving at the Sheldrak meditation cave.
Across the valley from Yumbulagang is an incredibly fertile and verdant crop field known as zortang, said to be the 1st cultivated field in Tibet. Farmers who visit the valley will often scoop up a handful of earth to sprinkle on their own fields when they return home, thereby ensuring a good crop.
A worthwhile detour from the Lhasa-Tsetang road, between the Dratang turn-off and the Samye ferry crossing, is Mindroling Monastery. It is the largest and most important Nyingmapa monastery.
Mindroling Monastery was founded by Rigzin Terdak Lingpa in 1676. Tendrak Lingpa’s lineage is known as the Nyo lineage. Mindroling, in Tibetan means “Palace of Perfect Emancipation”. It is located in Dranang County, Shannan Prefecture, approximately 43 km east of the Lhasa airport, on the south side of the Tsangpo river.
Mindroling Monastery has cham dancing on the 10th day of the 5th Tibetan lunar month. The latter festival features the creation of a sand mandala 9 days later.
At Mindrolling Monastery, special emphasis was palced on the learning of Buddhist scriptures, astronomy, Tibetan lunar calendar, calligraphy rhetoric, and Traditional Tibetan medicine. Monks traditionally studied13 major sutra and tantra texts of the Nyingma, and learned the practices stemming from various terma, especially from the Lineage of Terdak Lingpa. The monastery had at one time, over 100 satellites and its throne holder was one of the most revered in Tibet.
In the years after 1959, the monastery suffered damage to its buildings, but it was not as severe as at other monasteries such as Ganden Monastery. At present, the monastery is still being reconstructed in Tibet.
The central Tsuglhakhang is an elegant brown stone structure on the west side of the courtyard. As you walk clockwise, the 1st chapel is the Zhelre Lhakhang, with statues of Gelug Rinpoche and Terdak Lingpa. The bare main hall itself has another statue of Terdak Lingpa, along with Dorje Chang and a row of Kadam-style chortens– the monastery originally belonged to the Kadampa school. The inner chapel has a large Sakyamuni statue. Only the statue’s head is original.
Upstairs, the Tresor Lhakhang houses several treasures, including a stone hoofprint and a famed old Thangka with the gold footprints and handprints of Terdak Lingpa, which was given to the 5th Dalai Lama.
Woka Hot Spring
Woka is a agriculture and animal husbandry area in Sangri Country of Shannan Prefecture. There are 2 rivers and 7 hot springs. They have been divided into white water, black water, hot water, warm water and cold water according to the water temperature and colors by local Tibetans. The white water comes from the Snow-capped mountains. Its melted snow looks like milk in summer. The black water is from the white golden valley, called “the Three God River” by local Tibetans together with White water and Dragon river. The three water represents the Guanyin Bodhisattva, the King Guardian Deity and the Wenshu Bodhisattva.
The warm water has an average temperature in seasons that becomes a perfect place for washing clothes and vegetables for local Tibetans.
The Woka Hot Springs is represented by 4 hot springs. The first one is Zhuo Rom Hatem Hot Spring. It is well known for the private hot spring for Panchen Lama. It is said that each time when Panchen Lama pass here to worship in holy lake Lhamo La-tso, he will do clearance here. It’s also the hottest hot springs in Woka and well known for its cure for disease. In the north of this hot spring, there is a hot spring can treat gastropathy. North to the Woka Zong Ruins there is a hot spring near a bridge. It’s the best-like one for local Tibetans. Each start of summer Tibetans will help their their animals to have bath here getting a way from the residual illness and dust in those cold days. Except that people also come here taking bath after the whole day’s farm working. Talking and laughing can be seen anywhere. The 4th hot spring is for youth people especially for the lovers. When the sky turns dark, the young couples talk about love in hot spring which is so romantic.