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Interior of Songzanlin Monastery, the largest Tibetan monastery in Yunnan.

The Ganden Sumtseling Monastery, also known as Sungtseling and Guihuasi (Chinese: 松赞林寺 Sōngzànlín Sì), is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery situated 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from the city of Zhongdian at elevation 3,380 metres (11,090 ft) in Yunnan province, China. Built in 1679, the monastery is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan province and is sometimes referred to as the Little Potala Palace. Located in the capital of Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, it is also the most important monastery in southwest China.

It belongs to the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism of the Gelukpa order of the Dalai Lama. The Fifth Dalai Lama's Buddhist visionary zeal established the monastery in Zhongdian, in 1679. Its architecture is a fusion of the Tibetan and Han Chinese. It was extensively damaged in the Cultural Revolution and subsequently rebuilt in 1983; at its peak, the monastery contained accommodation for 2000 monks; it currently accommodates in its rebuilt structures 700 monks in 200 associated houses.

Because of the popularity of James Hilton's novel Lost Horizon (novel) (1933), which introduced Shangri-La and is said have been written on an inspirational theme of "the Tibetan Buddhist Scriptures, where human beings, animals, and nature lived in harmony under the rule of a Tibetan", the Chinese authorities changed the name of Zhongdian County to Shangri-La County in 2001, basically to encourage tourism. The earlier names were – the Zhongdian (建塘镇 Jiàntáng Zhèn) to the Chinese, and Gyalthang (Tibetan: རྒྱལ་ཐང་རྫོང་) also known locally as 'Xianeggelila' to the Tibetans of the town which has predominantly Tibetan population. The name of the county's capital town was similarly changed from Jiantang to Shangri-la. The ambiance of the town is distinctly Tibetan with prayer flags fluttering, mountains known by holy names, lamaseries and rocks inscribed in Tibetan language with Buddhist sutras. Source: Wikipedia

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Taken on November 4, 2011