Labrang Monastery is located on the north of Daxia River in the west of Xiahe County of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province. This most important Tibetan monastery outside Tibetwas first founded by Ngagong Tsunde, the first generation of Jamyang from nearby Ganjia in 1709. it is an important monastery of the Gelukpa or the Yellow Hat Sect.
At its peak there were over 4000 monks. Currently there are over 3000 monks from Qinghai, Gansu, Inner Mongolia and Tibet as well.
If you have only one day visiting Labrang Monastery, you are advised to visit the interior of some buildings escorted by monk tour guides. This is also the only way that you can enter some of the temples and institutions. In the afternoon, you may take the kora – the pilgrim path, walking around the monastery.
If you travel individually, after buying your entrance ticket, you’d better to wait at the ticket office around 10:15am or 3:15pm if you come here in the afternoon. Starting from the two fixed time, monk-turned English speaking tour guides will show you around on the prearranged travel route in the monastery. Visitors should be sensitive to the religious nature of the site.
The entrance to Labrang Monastery
First visit Institute of Medicine
A tour guide ( a monk ) from the monastery led us into the Institute of Medicine. Labrang Monastery is home to six Tratsang ( monastic colleges or institutes), covering Medicine, Astrology, Theology and Esoteric Buddhism.
The Institute of Medicine is the only college of the six to be allowed for visiting. This institute is free of charge and open to everybody including common people who are interested in the Tibetan medicine.
We are in the courtyard of the Institute of Medicine. Visitors are forbidden to take pictures inside the institute.
Next visit Shou An Temple
Next our monk tour guide took us to visit a small temple known as Shou’an Temple. There are numerous temples and chapels in the monastery. People are only allowed to enter two temples – Shou’an Temple and Shou’xi Temple. Visitors are not allowed to take photos inside the temple. The monastery has numerous Buddhist statues. The tallest one is 12 meters high and is housed in the Shou’an Temple inside the monastery.
We are entering the Shou’an Temple.
The Qing Dynasty Plaque over the gate to the temple.
The tangka paitings on the wall by the entrance to the temple.
Then move on to Labrang Monastery Relic Musuem (Yak Butter sculpture)
Then we were led to a relic musuem managed by Labrang Monastery, where numberous ya butter sculptures on display. The yak butter sculptures inside the small musuem give out a strong smell, almost choking to those who are not used to yak butter. This is the only place where we can take pictures.
We are inside the compound of the small yak butter sculptures museum.
A yak butter buddha sculpture
A close look at a yak butter flower sculpture
Continue to visit Shou’xi Temple
Also known as the Matreya temple, Shou Xi Temple is a fine example of the Labrang Buddhist temples, with five storeys and a palace-like structure. The temple has a plaque with the inscription of emperor Jia Qing “Shou Xi Si” ( Longevity Temple ).
The roof of the temple has gilded tiles decorated with various gilded bronze miniatures. It has a beautifully decorated wooden entrance to the temple.
Finally visit the main Prayer Hall (Grand Sutra Hall)
The Grand Sutra Hall is the most impressive of the buildings and can accommodateto 4,000 monks. It is an amazing sight to see the monks chanting here behind the wooden doors. Each morning as they wait to go and pray.
Take the 3 km kora (pilgrim path)
In the afternoon, you may take a 3km kora around the monastery, past rows of prayer wheels, stupas and chapels that circle the monastery. The rest of the monastery area is free, but in most cases, you are not allowed to enter these buildings. It is quite interesting to visit the living quarters of the monks.
Photos with closer glimpses at Labrang Monastery
Here comes a smiling monk walking from his living quarters