Songzanlin is the largest Tibetan Buddhism monastery in Yunnan Province. Covering an area of 30 hectares, it looks like a mini Kumbum (Ta Er) Monastery. It is located on a mountain slope 5km from the county town of Shangri-La.
Since the 5th Dalai Lama chose the site through divination in 1679, the monastery has grown into the most important community of its kind in Yunnan. Naturally, throughout its history spanning 325 years there have been ups and downs – the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), for instance, saw the lamasery almost completely destroyed – but the strong faith of the people in Shangri-La has always prevailed, and today Songzanlin once again houses more than 700 monks and lamas.
Built in the style of Potala Palace in Lhasa, the magnificent monastery complex resides on top of a hill and consists of the two Zhacang and Jikang lamaseries – which take on the form of five-story Tibetan watchtowers – five gates, numerous sub-lamaseries and hundreds of rooms for the monks. Walking up the 146 steps that lead to the main prayer hall is a tiring exercise at 3,300m above sea level, but it allows you to trace mentally the pilgrimage route that generations of devout Buddhists living on the plateau take on their knees and foreheads every year.
On the way, you will come across study rooms where young monks who typically enter the monk hood at the age of 5 are trained in the scriptures and foundations of monastic life. Time will be spent on the Buddhist canons, yet crafts, astrology and medicine are also on the curriculum. In addition, the boys retreat for hours each day to reflect and meditate on the meaning and implications of Buddhist philosophy.
Building in the monastery assembled the essence of Tibetan religious culture. The buildings are glorious, colorful gold-plated copper tile has rich modeling, dratsang hall is spacious and grand, and on both sides of the west wing rooms, the murals were carved full of beautiful things.
It is said that the temple site was decided through divined and prayed to God by Dalai Lama, god prophesied: “deep and clear spring, trees of heaven gold ‘having it”.Tourists into the temple, to see the spring all the year round is not dry, and can be common to a pair of golden snipe at the temple.Temple called the fifth dalai might well.”Karma” Dan said inheritance shamanism kagyu Dan temple of tsongkhapa was first set up;”Loose” namely three celestial god indra, fierce and swallow nest to swim;”Lin” namely “temple”.Contains the whole can be understood as: “all show not a charge, to make the method of pure source pointed benefit sentient beings and make it perfect, specially built this temple”.Pine great Lin temple system become the region’s former theocracy supreme institutions, to become Buddha, yunnan, Tibet, sichuan-tibet region method “sanbao” the dauther of service, all believers is the pilgrimage to the north at the age of an endless stream, incense jisheng.
According to the record, Songzanlin Monastery and 7thDalai Kelsang Gyatso might well had a profound “dharma affinity”. After the Sixth Dalai Lama “flied up to heaven”, reincarnated soul boy (the seventh Dalai Lama later) decided by Lhasa three temples through divination was hurt by the Mongolian Heshuote Troop Tibetan king Lha-bzang Khan, so reincarnated soul boy was escorted by monks to Songzanlin Monastery for taking refuge. Reincarnated soul boy enshrined the milk into the headwaters, and prayed that the water became milk to raise the living beings, the water turn into “Milk Water” since then. Later, reincarnated soul boy was turned to Kumbum Monastery in Qinghai, finally he was recognized at the time of emperor Kangxi, and ensealed a title. Therefore, 7th Dalai has been supported the expand of Songzanlin Monastery.
In the summer of 1936, Helong led the Red Army long march through the Shangri-la. Helong, Xiaoke made personal appearance on Guihua Temple (also called Songzanlin Monastery), visit living Buddha, lama, and inscribed “Attain Prosperity of Minority” on brocade (existing in Chinese military museum now). Guihua Temple raised foods for more than 20000 jin (a unit of weight=1/2 kilogram), has also sent monks as a guide for the Red Army, supporting the Red Army headed northward to fight against Japan.
What to See
【Main Scripture Hall】
The main scripture hall in the center of the compound is the highlight of the visit, especially during prayer time in the morning or during auspicious festivals when devotees come to take part in the festivities. The hall itself can accommodate some 1,600 lamas sitting in meditation or chanting Buddhist scriptures and features 108 imposing pillars. As Sonzanlin is affiliated with the Gelugpa or Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism, which is the order of both the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama, references to the sect’s history and philosophy are found throughout the lamasery.
Amongst the monastery many treasures are rare Buddhist scriptures written on palm leaves, which have been used by previous Dalai and Panchen Lamas, as well as the eight famous gold-covered sculptures of Sakyamuni, the Indian prince who in the 5th century BC founded Buddhism and is popularly known as the ‘Sage of the Shakya Clan’. Colorful murals painted by renowned lamas show guardian deities, scenes from the Lord Buddha’s life and the ‘wheel of life’ that (held by the demon of impermanence) depicts the six realms of existence: heaven, demigods, humankind, hell, hungry ghosts and animals. The hub in the wheel’s center symbolizes ignorance, hatred and greed, the three poisons of life.
Dratsang Basilica was one of the earliest constructions in Songzanlin Monastery, and it was built in 1697 A.D, 18th year in Emperor Kangxi period in Qing dynasty, the period when the 5th genealogy of Dalai was reigned. The Dratsang Basilica was 39.6 meters high, covered an area of 1500 square meters.
Dratsang Basilica is the place for monks chanting together in Songzanlin Monastery. And inside the Dratsang Basilica, there are enshrined the 5th genealogy of Dalai Lama Jwasang, Zongkeba Buddha, Jamba Buddha, Sakyamuni Buddha, the 3rd genealogy of Dalai, the 7th genealogy of Dalai, the 10th genealogy of Panchen Jwasang.
Sakyamuni Basilica was built in 1697 A.D, 18th year in Emperor Kangxi period in Qing dynasty, and it was also known as Wenshu Buddha Basilica. It covers an area of 556 square meters, and inside there are enshrined Wenshu Buddha which is 13.58 meters high and Sakyamuni Buddha. And around the Sakyamuni, there were pictures described his life.
【Zha Laju Religious Rituals Magic Basilica】
Zha Laju Religious Rituals Magic Basilica was also built in 18th year in Emperor Kangxi period in Qing dynasty, and it is also one of the earliest constructions in Songzanlin Monastery. It covers an area 159 square meters. Inside, it enshrined custodian of immortals.
【Zong Keba Basilica】
Zong Keba basilica was also built in 1697A.D. It is 36 meters high and covers an area of 789 square meters. There are 4 exceedingly high posts in basilica, for the gold tile flashing like the magic flammule that we could see it a few miles away, so it is also known as Gold Tile Temple. Inside, it enshrined ZongKeBa master Jwasang which is 18 meters high, and it also known as The First Buddha in Tibetan Areas.
Songzanlin Monastery is located in high altitude, with an elevation of 3300 meters, even in August there might also fell a few snowflakes. Suggested that bring a coat, down jacket, gloves, and skid-resistance boots. Due to dry climate, strong ultraviolet radiation, lady should be ready to prepare sunscreen, sun hat, sunglasses, especially visit there after October should bring enough clothes for keeping out the cold. From June to September is the Diqing plateau monsoon. Usually people choose to visit in spring and summer.
How to Get to Songzanlin Monastery
【By Bus】 There are 6 buses in Shangri-la County, running from 6:00 to 18:00, the fare is 1 RMB. People can take public bus No.3 in Changzheng road or minibus to Songzanlin Monastery, and it takes about 45 minutes.
【By Taxi】 The starting fare of taxi is 7 RMB, in the county, generally the taxi driver do not run the meters, so it just costs the starting fare inside the county. If you go out of the county, generally it cost around 15 RMB, 20 to 30 RMB to airport. If you want to go further, you can negotiate the price with the driver.
【Chinese Name】: 松赞林寺
【Recommended Visiting Hours】: 3 to 5 hours
【Best Time to Visit Songzanlin Monastery】: March to May, September to November is the best time to visit Songzanlin Monastery, during time the scenery is the most beautiful. In spring and autumn, the scenery of Shangri-la is beautiful, June to September is the rainy season in Diqing plateau. In spring, there are many minority festivals, so you can enjoy the lively atmosphere in Songzanlin Monastery. The winter is cold, pay attention to altitude stress, Songzanlin Monastery covered by snow is more majestic.