The Sangye Temple

On September 8, 2011, in Historical Relics, Mountain Areas, Museums, Temples, Tibet, by Jack Li

The Sangye Temple is located on the foot of the Holly Mountain of Haiburi in the Shannan Prefecture in Tibet, beside the Yarlung Zangbo River. Built in the Tupo Period, it has a history for over a thousand years now. The Sangye Temple is one of the most famous ancient buildings in Tibet because of its uniqueness and grandness.

The Sangye Temple is like a large museum on Tibetan culture. You can find historical and cultural relics on almost every aspects of Tibet in the temple, for example, frescos, statues, small buildings, and precious documents on history or religion of Tibet. The main hall of the temple, the Wuzi Hall, adopted a very special mixed architectural style. The first storey of it represents typical Tibetan style, while the second storey is built in Chinese style, and the third storey,  Indian style. Because of the unique architectural style, people also called the temple “Three-style Temple”.

The frescos on the walls of the temple are exquisite and rich in content. The most famous of them is the 92 meter long fresco “History”. It shows the history of Tibet and some ancient legends on it. The “Origin of Lotus” on the southern wall of the second storey of the Ming Gallery describes the customs in Tibet. Visitors will acquire a general knowledge of Tibet and the Sangye Temple through the frescos.

The Sangye Temple has a colorful history. After being established in 779 BC, the then king of Tibet, Trisong Detsen, invited many profound lamas from India, China, and Khotan to visit the temple and give lectures there. He also picked out 7 aristocratic members, ordered them to get tonsures and be permanent lamas in the temple. They were the first lamas in the temple. The seven lamas all became famous religious master later. They were called “the Seven Masters of the Sangye Temple”, and honored as the founders of Tibetan Buddhism. Trisong Detsen was also highly praised for his efforts to promote Buddhism in Tibet.

Visitors can enjoy the overview of temple from the top of the Holly Mountain of Haiburi beside it. From there you can see the magnificent exterior of the temple, and the beautiful Sangye Village where it locates. If you don’t want to climb all the way up to the top of the mountain, you can enjoy it from the pagoda on the mountainside as well. It is advisable for visitors to bring a flashlight with them during the visit, because the inside of it is often too dark to see anything. Nestling on the foot of the Holly Mountain of Haiburi, the weather beaten temple welcomes a great many tourists every year.

The Sangye Temple Attractions

The Wuzi Hall

The Sangye Temple Stories

The fifth king of the Tubo Dynasty, Trisong Detsen, was the son of Princess Jincheng from the Tang Dynasty. In 754 BC, to consolidate his power, he adopted Buddhism from Indian and promoted it in Tibet. Establishing a splendid Buddhist temple in Tibet was part of his plan, too.

King Trisong Detsen ordered several architects to build a temple on the foot of the Holly Mountain of Haiburi. But the temple fell apart during the building for no reason. The King asked a Buddhist master for advice, and he said the reason was that the place where the temple was to be built was haunted by ghost. So the king invited a powerful master from another country, Master Lotus, to kill the ghost. Master Lotus drove the ghosts away with his power easily. After he finished his job, he use his magic to make an illusion of a beautiful temple appear on the foot of the Holly Mountain of Haiburi. The king was so amazed that he shouted out, “Sangye! (Literally mean beyond one’s expectation in Tibetan)”, because it was exactly the temple he pictured in his mind. So after the temple was built, he named it “the Sangye Temple” to in memory of those difficulties that had been overcome during the establishment.

Jack Li

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