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Artifacts of Sakya Monastery

Perched on a barren hill 160km southwestern of Shigatse, the over 900-year-old Sakya Monastery(萨迦寺) sparkles as the lord of all monasteries dedicated to the Sakyapa(萨迦) sect of Tibetan Buddhism and the power axis of Sakya Kingdom(萨迦王朝,1265--1353), a local theocratic kingdom with fleeting reign and lasting influence.

Encompassing 45000 square meters, Sakya Monastery boasts 108 palaces and over 300 prayer halls embracing a fusion of Tibetan and Han influences.
sakya monastery
 Saykam Monastery is famed as Minor Dunhuang due to its miraculous " Wall of Scrolls" containing over 84,000 scriptions

This holy site enamored by pilgrims, enchants travelers, photographers, Tibetan cultural enthusiasts and romantic souls alike for its momentous collection of Buddha statues, murals, scriptures, ceramics and Thangkas, all with unmatched delicacy. The sheer volume of the collection, coupled with their unparalleled aesthetic value as well as historic and cultural significance, will leave the majority breathless. Thanks to them, Sakya Monastery is compared as: “ Shigatse’s Dunhuang: a oasis of Buddhism”.
sakya monastery

Sayak Monastery consists of two parts which contrast each other sharply: the dilapidated northern area and the palatial southern area, which represents its glorious past and promising future respectively.
Founded by Khon Konchog Gyalpo, the God Father of Sakyapa Sect in 1073, Northern Sakya Monastery is an icon frozen in time, while the fortress-like southern part built by Choygal Phakpa, the fifth descendant of Sakyapa Sect in 1268, is a holy grail and mounted museum of invaluable artworks. Its imposing walls are painted in scarlet red, creamy white and light grey to represent Manjusri Bodhisattva(文殊), Avalokiteshvara(观音) and Vajradhara(金刚手菩萨) respectively.
sakya monastery

In this soulful retreat, you can puzzle over titanic incarnations of Buddha, dwarfing pillars and mystical prayer halls, get awestruck by 40,000 volumes of scriptures as well as marvel at centuries-old murals and Thangka. It is also a place to immerse into Buddhist culture, seek contemplation, gain inner peace as well as receive wisdom and blessings from Buddha.

Artifacts of Sakya Monastery


Scriptures and Buddhist sutras

One of the most eye-dazzling parts of Sakya Monastary is its 40,000 volumes of scriptures written with ink made from golden, silver, coral, ivory, pearls  and other precious materials on slightly poisonous pages, which effectively keeps worms at bay. Many of these manuscripts date back to the Yuan(1271-1368) and Ming(1368-1644) dynasties.
All of them are contained within wooden bookshelves, big or small, and are carefully maintained and preserved. The biggest bookshelf here measures 57m-long, 11m-high and 1m-wide and has 464 grids.
Seen from afar, the spectacle of a honeycomb of books, is overwhelming. Among all the books, Burde Gyaimalung, the encyclopedia of Tibetan culture, is awe-inspiring for both its size and contents.
Spanning 1.8m-long, 1.3m-wide and 0.67m-thick, it is the biggest scripture on earth. In this book, you can also scrutinize dozens of scriptures with colorful illustrations written on Pattra leaves. In addition, Sakya Monastery also houses over 84,000 volumes of sutras.
sakya monastery

Murals & Thangkas

Sakya Monastery houses over 3,000 Thangkas and countless murals dating back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Around 360 pieces of Thangkas spanning the Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties, that is, from the 10th to the 17th century, feature consummate craftsmanship and are rare-seen treasures.

Encompassing over 10000 m2, those murals depicting scenes of both the divine and secular world, is a feast for your eyes. Among all of them, murals depicting portraits of the former Sakya ancestors, Phakpa's meeting with Kublai Khan (the founder of the Yuan Dynasty) and mandalas, are the most outstanding and precious.
 sakya monastery


Over 2,000 pieces of ceramics are treasured here, among which the majority belongs to Yuan and Ming dynasties.

Buddha Statues

Among over 20,000 Buddha statues spot in this temple, the majority dates back to the Yuan and Ming dynasties. Of this monastery’s top four treasures, three are Buddha statues. Another treasure enjoys supreme status is a white shell, a gift from Genghis Klan. Only during grand festivals can one hear its bewildering summon produced by skilled monks.


Among all the festivals, Tiao Shen (Lamaist Devil Dance跳神) or ceremonial dance performed by the Lamaists in trance stands out as the most striking event in this monastery. Occurring in the seventh and eleventh month of Tibetan calendar annually, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the mysterious spiritual world of the Tibetans.
It comes in the form of solo dance, duet dance or collective dance. The performers usually wear colorful masks, long robes, swords, shields and ribbons. The piecing and haunting music evokes an omnipresent feeling. Pilgrims by the thousands will converge here during these periods. The scene is impressive and the atmosphere is infectious.
 sakya monastery
sakya monastery

Travel Tips:

Admission Fee: 50RMB
Accommodation: hotels in Sakya Town(萨迦镇) are priced from 30 to 50RMB
Photography tips: generally speaking, your polite request to take photos of monks will not be declined.
The best panoramic photo of this monastery is taken at the middle of a hill opposite to this monastery.
Author:  Sophia   Posted on Aug 8, 2013
Yuanyang Travel Tips
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