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Sakya Monastery

Second Dunhuang

About Sakya Monastery

Sakya Monastery is the center of the Sakya Sect. In Tibetan, the word Sagya means “gray soil” referring to the weathered gray earth on the Bonbori Hill where the monastery is located. This name later referred to the place then to the Sagya Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery is 148 km away from Shigatse.

The monastery is divided into 2 by the Zhongqu River. While the Northern Monastery sits along the Bonbori Hill, the Southern Monastery lies in the valley. The Northern Monastery was founded in 1073 by Kun Gongjor Gyibo, founder of the Sakya Sect. The Northern Monastery was grand in scale and had many constructions. Unfortunately, only a 2-storey hall built in the Yuan Dynasty can still be found today as the rest of the buildings were long destroyed and left in decay.

The Southern Monastery was built in 1288 by Drogon Chogyal Pagba, 5th Sakya Throne Holder. Pagba was an important political activist, grand Lama and scholar in the Yuan Dynasty. While he was young, Pagba followed his uncle Sapan Gunggar Gyaincain to journey to Liangzhou (in Gansu Province). There they talked with Godan, a grandson of Genghis Khan. They were able to facilitate Tibet’s submission of authority to the Yuan Dynasty. For many years, Pagba followed Kublai Khan who became the great Khan in 1260 and honored Pagba as the State Tutor. Kublai Khan granted Pagba a jade seal and the authority over the Buddhist affairs in the empire as well as the administration over Tibetan regions.

Sakya Monastery is often referred to as the 2nd Dunhuang as it boasts of many classical books whose exact number no one can tell. At the rear and both flanks of the Sutra Hall, giant wooden shelves reach up to the ceiling. Most of the classics date back to the Yuan and Ming dynasties. The hand-written classics were carefully written with golden, silver and crimson powder. They are bound in scrolls, folders or between boards. One of the scriptures bound in boards weighs a good 500 kilogrammes, making it the world’s hugest scripture. Besides religious content, the classics describe the history, medicine, philosophy, calendric system, geology, opera, poetry, folklore and grammar concerning Tibet.

The Sakya Monastery holds the world’s largest treasure of Buddhist scriptures written on pattra leaves. There are 20 volumes of such scriptures written in Tibetan, Mongolian and Sanskrit. With iron pens, ancient scholars carefully wrote scriptures on pattra leaves about 5 cm broad, some 20-60 cm long. As the Sakya Monastery is located in a cold and high place, the dry climate protects the treasures from rotting. Thus the treasures can be preserved until day.

Tips of Sakya Monastery

1. There are some Sichuan Restaurants in Sakya County. The Sichuan cuisine is very delicious.

2. The guesthouses of monastery and hotels in Sakya County are not well-equipped.

3. Dawn and dusk would be the best shooting moment of Sakya Monastery. Northern Monastery is the ideal shooting place.

Attractions nearby Sakya Monastery

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