I see more cameras today, I see more guards today, I see more heart ache today, I quickly understand why. We are at the Tashilhunpo Monastery, a historic and culturally important monastery in Tibet’s second largest city, Shigatse. Tashilhunpo monastery is the traditional seat of the second highest ranked tulku lineage in the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, the Panchen Lama.
The monastery has endured a hard life, in 1791 the Gorkha Kingdom invaded Tibet and
captured Shigatse, but most recently it has been in the centre of the conflict between China and Tibet. During China’s invasion of Tibet, two thirds of the buildings were destroyed, the hardest hit were the residences of the 4000 monks. The monastery itself was not extensively damaged, possibly because it was the seat of the Panchen Lama, who remained in Chinese controlled territory.
In 1966 the red guards led a crowd to the monastery to break statues, burn scriptures and open the stupas. Inside the Stupas were the relics of the 5th to 9th Panchen Lamas, the crowd threw most of the relics into the river, some were saved by the locals. In 1985 the 10th Panchen Lama Choekyi Gyaltsen began construction of a new Stupa to house them in honour of his predecessors. In 1989 just six days before he died the stupa was consecrated. It was as if he was saying now he could rest.
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