Pelkor Chode Monastery in Gyangze County, Shigatse

Chinese Name:江孜县白居寺
English Name:Pelkor Chode Monastery 
Location: Located in Gyangze County(江孜县), Shigatse Prefecture(日喀则市),Tibet Autonomous Region, China
Admission fee: Free
Opening hours: 9:00~19:00

About Pelkor Chode Monastery

The Pelkor Chode Monastery or is the main monastery in the Nyangchu river valley(尼洋曲河谷). The monastery precinct is a complex of structures which, apart from the Tsuklakhang Monastery, also includes its Kumbum, believed to be the largest such structure in Tibet, that is most notable for its 108 chapels in its several floors and the old Dzong or fort.

History and Development of Pelkor Chode Monastery 

The earliest history of the Penchor Chode Monastery is traced to the ninth century. Pelkhor-tsen, son of Langdarma (anti Buddhist King of West Tibet) after whom the monastery is named as Pelkor Chode, lived here and attempted to perpetuate the Yarlung dynasty of his father who had been assassinated. Gyantse town was established between the 14th and 15th centuries as a feudatory, with the Sakya sect playing a crucial overlord role. During this period, the Buddhist monuments were also built with the Dzong (the old fort) followed by the Kumbum and the Pekor monastery. All three structures have been dated. Tsuklakhang monastery was built by prince Rabton Kunzang Phak between 1418–25. However, Gyantse’s historical importance declined by the end of the 15th century. The Tsuklakhang, the main temple of the monastery was built in 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 recognized as the 1st Panchen Lama. It became an important centre of the Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The Kumbum or Tashigomang, commenced construction in 1427 and completed by 1437, also by prince Rabten Kunzang Phak. Several other buildings followed, with Buddhist sects such as Sakyapa, Zhalupa and Gelukpa building religious colleges or hermitages; 16 colleges were recorded by the end of 17th century, increasing to 18 by the start of the 19th century. However most of them were later closed. Now, only two colleges of the Gelukpa order remain, which are stated to be of little consequence.
Another testament to Prince Rabten Kunzang Phak’s period is the public display of two gigantic paintings; (Thangkas) of Shakyamuni Buddha flanked by his two principal disciples, of Maitreya, Manjushri and many more on the occasion of the Gyantse festival that is held in the fourth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar. This practice was started between 1418 and 1419 in the northeast corner of the monastery walls, known as Goku Tramsa. In 1904, the town and monastery were attacked by British soldiers under the leadership of Francis Younghusband (commanding 1000 troops, 10,000 servants, and 4,000 yaks) and although most of the damage was later restored, bullet holes from this attack remain in the monastery to this day. Following the capture of Gyantse fort, the agreement signed by the Tibetan Regent, resulted in establishment of British Trade Missions at Gyantse and Mt. Kailash in Tibet. In 1906, the British signed an agreement with the Chinese authorities, which established their influence over Tibet and thus “effectively ending both British and Russian influence”.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. Prior to the uprising there were 1520 monks but now they number less than 80.

Main Attractions- Pelkor Chode Monastery 

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 (105 feet) 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.
The most popular festival celebrated in the monastery is held on 15 April. It is known as the Saka Dawa festival to commemorate Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism; this day is said to mark his birthday and also the day of his death. On this occasion, five hundred Lamas chant sutras when local people attend. Horse racing and archery festivals are held in the middle of fourth lunar month.

Attraction Transportation

There are buses running from Xigatse and Lhasa (via Xigatse) to Gyantse on a regular basis. However, most people arrive by organised tours from the capital. The county itself is quite small & most sights can be seen on foot. Taxis are available, but watch out for illegal taxies. Tibetan people are friendly, sometimes they invite you to ride with their horse carriages! Agree on a price first, otherwise it could be expensive. There is a small youth hostel close to the bus terminal, where they rent bicycles. The price was approximately ¥25 per day, which is equal to 3 euro. Sadly, condition of most bicycles were poor.

Attraction Travel Tips

1. Traveling Hours: 2~3 hours
2. Traveling Seasons: All year
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.