Tashilhunpo Monastery, regarded as the Tibetan Buddhist centre of Rear Tibet, is the most popular attraction in Shigatse. And it is the seat of the Panchen Lama since the Fourth Panchen Lama took charge in the monastery. Plus its counterparts, like Gandan Monastery, Sera Monastery and Drepung Monastery of Lhasa, jointly were ranked as Four Grand Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism. As a must-see spot for travelers and buddhist followers, Tashilhunpo monastery plays a very important role for Tibetan Tourism. This is an old local saying, that, one has never been to Shigatse if ignoring Tashihunpo Monastery.
Tashilhunpo monastery, also called the Heap of Glory, is located at the foot of Drolmari (Tara’s Mountain) of Shigatse. It was founded by the First Dailai Lama in 1447, and expanded by the Fourth and successive Panchen Lamas. Tashilhunpo Monastery covers an area of nearly 300,000 square meters (3,229,279 sq. ft.). The main structures found in the Tashilhunpo Monastery are The Maitreya Chapel, The Panchen Lama’s Stupa-tomb and The Kelsang Temple.
The Maitreya Chapel, the most remarkable one in whole monastery, enshrined a 26.2 meters (86 ft) high Maitreya Buddha, which is the biggest gilded statue in Aisa. This buddha statue is luxuriously well decorated with gold, diamond, pearl and every other rare stone. It is spellbinding to know that it is purely handcrafted by around 900 craftsmen and took more than 9 years in its construction. Take the wooden staircase to other higher levels of the Chapel from where you can more clearly see and appreciate the Lord’s monolith.
The other attraction of the temple is the Stupa tomb of the tenth Panchen Lama. It lies east of the chapel and is covered with 614 kilogram of gold and innumerable number of jewels and precious stones. It was said that the corpse of him had no signs of decomposition at that time, more miraculously, some truly saw that his hair and finger nails were continuing grow. Near to the stupa there is the Panchen Lama’s palace which is still not open to visitors. As move to the east of the palace, you will come across another stupa, this time of the fourth Panchen Lama. This stupa is also completely covered with gold and silver. Apart from these grand palaces and Stupas, also enjoy the uniqueness and resplendence of the paintings that adorn the walls of this temple.