Visiting the Samye Monastery, we took our time to explore the massive premise going through the outer ring, the inner ring and finally the masterpiece of the main temple. Continuing with the lineage of Guru Rinpoche, this monastery was actually one of few built by him. Unlike most monasteries we’ve seen so far, this one was NOT built upon the mountainside, but rather in a structured manner (most monasteries doesn’t seem to have any conscious form of organization..hehe) with patches of grass, unlike most Tibetan-style of construction.
One cool part of this monastery, is that there are four massive stupas in standard white, but also three other in green, red and black! Each stupa represents the four stages of Buddha Shakyamuni’s life, and was supposedly built after four rocks which self-manifested at the specific spots of the monastery. At the very centre of the compound stood the impressive centrepiece of the main temple. The first floor is modeled after the Tibetan-style, while the second floor is decorated in the Han-style, with the top floor designed after the Indian-style. The frescoes and the artifacts of this temple is numerous, but its claim to fame must be the several remnants of Guru Rinpoche’s personal items such as his walking stick, and the gold-plated skull of another well-respected lama.
Religious Note: Guru Rinpoche aka Padmasambhava, was born in ancient India (modern day Pakistan) and is attributed with the creation of the Nyingma school of Buddhism. Throughout our travels, his presence can be felt everywhere. And we mean EVERYWHERE. This guy knows some sort of magic, as he’s been to some of the most remote places that takes like 10hrs by car through mud roads created within the past 5 years. So which implied he had to traverse steep mountains, cross whitewater rivers and have nothing to eat for a couple of days to get there. He also left behind a plethora of his own ‘mark’, a footprint here, a hand stamp there, and a walking stick in the Samye Monastery. It’d be cool if you can go back in time and sorta follow him through his travels to see how he does all this.
The monastery was all the region had to offer, so we hopped on an afternoon bus to our next destination of Zeda ng, which had some historical significance as city, but more importantly it was a stopover to head into the small city of Jiacha to view the most sacred lake to Tibetans, Lhamo Latso (纳木拉措), or the Oracle Lake….Oooooo? What could it be?!!??!?
Zedang is the centre of the Shannan prefecture, but historically it plays a significant role in Tibetan history as the fact that it was the capital of the Tubo dynasty for 33 (!) generations, until the famous Songtsan Gampo moved the capital to what we currently know as Lhasa. There are two relics left behind by the Tubo dynasty, one is the king’s summer palace and the other is his winter palace, both of which were converted to monasteries after the relocation.
Surprisingly, the entire castle, despite its diminutive size, still stands strong atop the strategically placed spot in the valley. The region is unlike other parts of Tibet, as the lower altitude and geographical elements result in a lush environment for growing crops! And the castle overlooks all of this, with mountains protecting it from both front and back. These guys know how to choose a home! Inside the castle, there wasn’t much to comment on as it is now a fully functioning monastery, but it is definitely small by most measures containing only three stories and probably less than 1500sqft in useable floor space for the King. The cool part though, is the location. High atop the village below (where the peasants probably lived), you can actually see and hear whats going on underneath!! We sat there enjoying the scenery, and you can hear people yell and cows mooing. We weren’t sure whats going on, but there was this terribly vocal cow that wouldn’t stop mooing!
So we took in the fresh air, sunshine and had a cow sing for us… T’was nice being a king.