Samye Monastery the oldest monastery in Tibet

Samye Monastery Shannan Tibet
The Samye Monastery is the first Buddhist temple founded in Tibet. In such a mandala, different styles are combined, the bottom Tibetan, the middle Han and the top Indian. The Samye Monastery has long been reputed for the vivid murals and ancient relics stored within them. The serene and peaceful atmosphere of the place is ideal for meditation monks.

Sacred Setting

The Samye Monastery lies in a landscape of sand dunes, 150 kilometers southeast of Lhasa. Everything in the organization of the monastery shows the inventiveness of two architects to build the first monastery of Tibetan Buddhism. Taking the form of a mandala, the main temple hall in the center with its pointed roof is supposed to represent Mount Sumeru, the mythical Mount related to the center of the world in the Tibetan religion. The positions of other temple halls also have a meaning in the world organization of Buddhists. Similarly, just as the earth is surrounded by mountain barriers, the monastery is protected by a circular enclosure that spans a mile long.

First Tibetan Buddhist Temple

It was the King Trisong Detsen that made the spread of Buddhism in Tibet possible. He invited the Indian monk Shantarakshita to build Samye, the first Buddhist temple inTibet. But at last, the monastery was completed by the presence of tantric monk Padmasambhava in 779. It was modeled on the design of Odantapuri in India. On the opening day, he ordered seven young aristocratic Tibetan shaved their hair and began their monastic life. Known as the "7 Samye disciples," this was the first group of monks in the history of Tibetan Buddhism! Later, the King organized a debate to decide between Indian Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism as the state religion, and it is of course the first who won.

Fusion of Architectural Styles

The Samye Monastery is also notable because of the mixture of architectural style seen in its main buildings. Indeed, all three levels were constructed in a different manner. The first floor of a Tibetan style contains a large gallery where the history of Buddhism is described. The second, meanwhile, is Chinese style and the third is in Indian style. For the unique architectural styles, you may be attracted at the first sight of Samye Monastery.

Similar Temples in the West

The Samye Monastery served as models for other buildings in Europe. Kagyu Samye Ling, founded in 1967 in Scotland, is the first center of Tibetan Buddhist practices in the West. This center is similar with the Samye Monastery in architectural style. Similarly, the Temple for Peace Temple Vajradhara-Ling in France was inspired by the architecture of the monastery.

  • Best time to visit

    Jun. Jul. Aug. 
  • Altitude

    3 700M Altitude Samye Monastery
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