Labrang Monastery is one of the six great monasteries of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. These are Ganden Monastery, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, Tashilhunpo Monastery, Kumbum Monastery and Labrang Monastery. Labrang Monastery’s formal name is Genden Shédrup Dargyé Trashi Gyésu khyilwé Ling.
Labrang is located in Xiahe County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu province, in the traditional Tibetan area of Amdo. Labrang Monastery is home to the largest number of monks outside the TAR. It is about 4 hours by car from the provincial capital Lanzhou to Labrang monastery.
In the early 20th century, Labrang was by far the largest and most influential monastery in Tibetan Amdo. It is located on the Daxia River, a tributary of the Yellow River.
- The monastery complex dominates the western part of the village. The white walls and gilded roofs feature a blend of Tibetan and Indian Vihara architectural styles. The monastery contains 18 halls, six institutes of learning, a gilded stupa, a sutra debate area, and houses nearly 60,000 sutras.
- At its height the monastery housed 4,000 monks. Like so many religious institutions, it suffered during the Cultural Revolution; and the monks were sent to their villages to work. After it was reopened in 1980, many of the monks returned; but the government restricted enrollment to around 1,500.
- It has a Buddhist museum with a large collection of Buddha statues, sutras and murals. In addition, a large amount of Tibetan language books, including books on history is available for purchase, together with medicines, calendars, music and art objects.
There used to be a great gold-painted statue of the Buddha, more than 50 feet high, which was surrounded by rows of surrounding Buddhas in niches.
The monastery today is an important place for Buddhist ceremonies and activities. From January 4 to 17 and June 26, to July 15, (these dates may change according to the lunar calendar), the great Buddhist ceremony will be held with Buddha-unfolding, sutra enchanting, praying, sutra debates, etc.
Read further about other Gelugpa Monastery:
- Tsongkhapa founded the monastery of Ganden in 1409 as his main seat.
- Drepung Monastery was founded by Jamyang Choje
- Sera Monastery was founded by Chöje Shakya Yeshe
- Tashi Lhunpo Monastery was founded by Gyalwa Gendün Drup
- Labrang Monastery, in Xiahe County in Gansu province (and in the traditional Tibetan province of Amdo), was founded in 1709 by the first Jamyang Zhaypa, Ngawang Tsondru.
- Kumbum Monastery. Many Gelug monasteries were built throughout Tibet as well as in China and Mongolia.
About Tibetan Gelug Buddhism
Gelug was founded by Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) but the lineage can be traced from Kadampa tradition of the great Indian master Atisha (982-1054). Tsongkhapa was of the founder of Ganden Monastery built in Lhasa which became the main seat of Gelug tradition. After that, many monasteries were built, like Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, Tashilhunpo Monastery, Kumbum Monastery and Labrang Monastery. There monasteries including Ganden Monastery were called the six biggest Gelug monasteries. Among them, except Kumbum Monastery in Qinghai Province and Labrang Monastery in Gansu Province, the rest are located in Tibet. Gelug is the youngest school in Tibetan Buddhism but it has the biggest influence in Tibet today. It is also known as Yellow Sect because the monks wear yellow hats. The founder Tsongkhapa emphasized on strict disciplines (The monks are required to be celibacy and prohibited from eating meat and drinking alcohol) and hierarchies. So Gelug developed very fast due to its effective managing methods.
In Qing Dynasty, it was also spread to Sichuan, Yunnan, and even the capital Beijing. The famous Lama Temple in Beijing is from Gelug tradition and it was the highest level Buddhism monastery in Qing Dynasty. The top leaders of Gelug are Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama. From the sixteenth century, Gelug has adopted reincarnation system. In 1577, Sonam Gyatso was considered to be the incarnation of Gyalwa Gendun Drup and formed an alliance with Altan Khan, the Mongol leader. Thus, he was designated as the 3rd Dalai Lama. “Dalai” means “ocean” in Mongolian. After that, Gyalwa Gendun Drup and Gendun Gyatso were subsequently recognized as the first and second Dalai Lama. In Qing Dynasty, Gelug became both the religion and secular leader and the system of combining religion and politics was strengthened. Want to explore Tibet? Read further about our Tibetan travel agency