Thursday, 3 September 2009

Palkhor Monastery, Gyangze

The Palkhor Monastery carries the meaning "Auspicious Wheel Joy Monastery" and is a landmark of Tibetan art. It lies at the foot of the Dzong Hill and houses an 8-metre tall bronze sculpture of Buddha (or Maitreya). The monastery is famous and interesting for many reasons. First, the monastery has a main tower named One-Hundred-Thousand-Buddha Tower with 14 floors that is said to enshrine more than 100,000 Buddha statues. Second, the monastery is full of beautiful murals, paintings and sculptures, much with Buddhist art influences from India and Nepal. The sculptures in the monastery are made from clay. These carving and sculpting skills were learned from the carvers of India and Nepal. The paintings on the wall now faded with age are 600 years old. Third, the monastery is surrounded by these red concrete walls. Fourth, three sects (Sagya, Gagyu and Gelug) coexist under this one monastery, which is rare. Also, a thousand over ancient Tibetan sutras are kept and these are valuable documents of Tibetan religion and ethnic cultures.

I enjoyed visiting the monasteries outside Lhasa. They are less crowded (still crowded but not packed) and I see less tourists.

As we stepped into the entrance of the monastery, we were greeted by beautiful wall paintings of heavenly creatures on both sides.

A Buddhist with her white hat

The One-Hundred-Thousand-Buddha Tower

A very dirty and stinky loo which I had to visit before we proceed with the tour. (By now, I am quite immuned to such toilets)

A monastery building near the entrance

Red concrete walls surrounding the monastery

Prayer wheels

A man carrying water

A lady checking out the monastery vegetable/herb gardens

A shrine with prayer flags

Massive red walls

Entrance of the main building

Buddhist art on the ceiling

Buddha statue with decorative offerings made from barley flour

The barley-made offerings from the back

Clay sculptures of deities with Indian and Nepalese Buddhist art influences

8-metre tall bronze Buddha statue

Meditation hall where the coats of the monks are placed

Strangely, the pillars on one or two of these halls had pens and pencils stuck on it. According to the guide, these are modern day gifts for Buddha or the deities. For instance, if you sat for an exam and you'd like to thank Buddha for the effort you've made, you offer a pen. I had attempted to take photos of these pillars but we were rushing about from hall to hall and my shots were so horridly blur.

Buddha statue with intricate carvings surrounding the statue in another hall.

Over a thousand sets of ancient Tibetan scriptures all placed in pigeon holes stacked in shelves that stretch from floor to ceiling and along the walls. What a wonderful library of old books!

Exquisite sculpture of a deity. The walls are covered with paintings of history and religion. It's absolutely intriguing!

With only 15 minutes left to spare, we rushed up this 14 storey building of 100,000 Buddha statues tower. Those minutes were indeed well-spent. This tower is concentrated with art and history. I am both astounded and overwhelmed with unsurmountable joy! We rushed to pay for photography fee before we ascended each floors to venture into tiny rooms with Buddha or deity statues, sculptures of religious figures and many, many more wall paintings. Oh, I forgot to mention, there are different photography fee for different halls and they are about 10 to 25 RMB depending on the halls. This applies to all the indoor pictures I took and I was glad because it is charity and I get to take pictures! This place is too awesome not to.

A statue of Buddha with two accompanying monks. You can see money offerings on the altars of every halls.

Picture of Buddhist worshippers heading to the other buildings taken from the tower

Buddha statue in one of the halls of the tower

Wall paintings of a deity

Many narrow stairways and ladders to get to the top of these 14 floors and we didn't know which floor we were on. We went on every floor and saw as much as we could with whatever allowable time. Forget the 15 minutes!

Another big Buddha statue surrounded by deities and religious figures

Wall carvings of monks

The view from one of the upper floors

There is probably more ladders to climb to get to the very top but we stopped after the next floor. Beautiful design surrounding the doorway

Another building of the monastery built into the mountain. I love watching buildings like these. Reminds me of Petra in Jordan <-- This one I want to go also!.

Eyes above the doorway. Remember these eyes, you will see them again soon if you follow these blog posts. This was the highest floor we reached before we headed back down again. And, we were only heading down because it started to drizzle.

One last big Buddha statue before we left the monastery

A souvenier shop outside the monastery and a lady caught in the rain.

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