Tashilhunpo monastery, located in Shigatse, is another of the six great Gelukpa monasteries of Tibet. This monastery was founded in 1447 by Gyalwa Gendun Drup who was the nephew and a disciple of Tsongkhapa. Gyalwa Gendun Drup went on to become the first Dalai Lama. Later, the fourth Panchen Lama Lobsang Chokyi Gyaltsen, added major additions to the monastery.
Tashilhunpo Monastery is famous throughout Tibet for being the home of the Panchen Lama. The Panchen Lama is the second highest ranking lama in Tibet after the Dalai Lama. The Panchen Lama is said to be the incarnation of Amitabha Buddha. Since the fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang, the person occupying the seat of Dalai Lama has been involved in the final selection process of the new Panchen Lama. In turn, the person occupying the seat of Panchen Lama has been involved in the selection process of the new Dalai Lama.
The most famous Panchen Lama was the tenth, Chokyi Gyaltsen. The tenth Panchen Lama was born in 1938 in a small village in northeast Amdo province, Tibet (modern day Qinghai). He was officially recognized as the tenth Panchen Lama in June 1949. In 1968 he was sent to prison for criticizing the conditions of Tibet and in particular the conditions of the Tibetans of his home province of Amdo. In 1977 he was released from prison, but remained under house arrest in Beijing until 1982. After being released he was considered to be politically rehabilitated. He was soon given the office of Vice Chairman of the National People's Congress. Even though he was given this position, he continued to speak out and represent the Tibetan people. He died under mysterious circumstances in January 1989 shortly after arriving again in Shigatse.
Tashilhunpo is located in Shigatse, 265km / 166 miles west of the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet and is located on the Friendship Highway...a highway connecting Lhasa with Kathmandu, Nepal. In the 1950's Tashilhunpo had a monk population of around 4000. Today it is a fraction of that. Tashilhunpo was closed during the Cutural Revolution, but was hardly damaged compared to most monasteries across Tibet. It was reopened in the early 1980's and has since become a major tourist attraction among foreign and Chinese tourists.
Getting to Shigatse and Tashilhunpo Monastery is easy. There are multiple buses per day going between Lhasa and Shigatse. Most people stop in Shigatse for a night or two on the way to Mt. Everest or the Nepal border when booking a 4WD trip from Lhasa. For more information about Shigatse, please send an email to [email protected]