Gongkar Chö Monastery in Gonggar County, Lhoka (Shannan)
Chinese Name: 贡嘎曲德寺
English Name: Gongkar Chö Monastery
Location: Located in Gonggar County(贡嘎县), Lhoka Prefecture(山南市)，Tibet Autonomous Region, China
Admission fee: Free
Opening hours: All day
About Gongkar Chö Monastery
The Gongkar Dorjden or the Gongkar Monastery is located on a hill top cliff in the Gongkar valley on the southern side of the Tsangpo River(雅鲁藏布江), on the Lhasa Gonggar Airport road to the south of the main road, 75 kilometres from Lhasa.
History and Development of Gongkar Chö Monastery
The monastery, which was built in 1464, belongs to the Zung branch of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. It is 400 metres (1,300 feet) south of the Lhasa road. The principal founder of the Dzongpa Tradition was Dorje Chang Kunga Namgyal (1432–1496). The main monastery of the Dzongpa is Gongkar Chode just south-west of Lhasa on the south side of the Tsangpo River.
In the 16th century, the monastery was beautified with wall paintings of the Khyenri school of Tibetan paintings done by the well-known artist of the times, Jamyang Khyentse Wangchuk.
Main Attractions- Gongkar Chö Monastery, The festival
The monastery, situated on the southern side of the Tsangpo River, has in its precincts the main shrine as well as the Shedra, the monastic college. It is a three-storied structure which houses the dukhang, lhakhangs, the Rinpoche’s living quarters and the kitchen with a “perfect arrangement of hermitages and colleges.” The main shrine has an assembly hall, which is a 64-pillared hall, where the new statues of Sakya Pandita, Sakyamuni Buddha, Guru Padmasambhava, Drolma and Dorje Denpa, the founder of the monastery are deified. The Gongkhang, on the left of the main hall, depicts wall paintings in black colour, on its outer chambers, of the practice of the Sky Burial prevalent in Tibet. There is also gold on black painted mural of Mahakala represented as Pranjaranatha (Gonpo Gur), the Sakyapa Protector, in the inner hall of the main shrine and also a few spectacular spirit traps. The inner sanctum of the monastery has frescoes of the Sakyapa founders, painted in Kyenri-style of art and an inner kora (nang-khor). The paintings have been influenced by Chinese art. The chapel is located to the right of the Assembly Hall and has statues of the Past, Present and Future Buddhas. One floor above the main hall, paintings of the original monastery layout can be seen. The monastery shrine is flanked by the Khyedor Lhakhang and the Kangyur Lhakhang; the Khyedor Lhakhang has frescoes of Hevajra, and Yab-Yum (tantric depiction of the sexual union).
Along the circumambulatory path around the inner sanctum, original frescoes of the 12 Deeds of the Shakyamuni and Thousand Buddhas of the Aeons are seen. However, a three-story-high image of Buddha with the skull of the Indian master Gayadhara, which once existed here in the inner sanctum, is not seen now.
While circumambulating the monastery in a clockwise direction, the Shedra or the monastic college is seen to the left in the northern direction of the complex. The monastic college holds painting classes in the morning session and debating classes in the afternoon, for the monks.
Other religious building close to the monastery is the Dechen Chakor Monastery, about 3 kilometres away on a side valley, and 13 kilometres away is the Gonggar Dzong.
The monastic community (there were 260 lamas in the past, now only 30) perform an annual festival of Mandala rituals from the 6th to the 15th day of the first lunar month, according to the Tibetan calendar. Over a two-day period, 28 sand Mandalas are created according to the Carya, Yoga and Anuttarayoga Tantras. These are the concise deity cycles according to the Vajrapanjara namely, “the Hevajra tantra, black Hevajra, Hevajra in Dombhi Heruka’s tradition, Hevajra in the Tsokye Dorje tradition, Hevajra in the oral instruction tradition, the fifteen goddess cycle of Nairatma, Samvara in Mahasiddha Luipa’s tradition, Samvara in Krsnapada’s tradition, the five-deity Samvara of Ghantapada, the 37 Varahi form of Samvara, Guhyasamaj-aksobhyavajra, the thirteen deity Bhairava, 49 deity Bhairava, the Vetalaraja form of Bhairava, black Yama, five deity red Yama, thirteen deity red Yama, six faced Yama, Mahamaya, five deity Manjusri, (Rigs gsum rig gtad), (gZa’ yum skar yum), nine deity Amitayus, Vidharana in Virupa’s tradition, Sarvavid vairocana, Panjara-tara and Vajra-tara”.
Getting to Gonggar County is made easy via the Lhasa Gonggar Airport, located 39 miles from the city of Gonggar and a 40 to 60 minute drive.
Attraction Travel Tips
1. Traveling Hours: 1～2 hours
2. Traveling Seasons: All year, and the best travel time is from June to August
3. High Altitude Sickness Avoiding: Bring enough water and some thick clothes, eating more fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and so on.
4. Pay attention to respect the local customers in the monastery.