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Gandan Monastery

Gandan Monastery, commonly called Ganden Monastery. Gandan was translated from Tibetan language "Gandain" means the land controlled by Buddha. Ganden Monastery was built (1409) by Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug Sect. Located at the top of Wangpori Mountain (3,800m asl ) on the south bank of Tagtse County (about 57 km from Lhasa), the monastery is traditionally considered to be the seat of Geluk administrative and political power. It is also known as the first temple of Gelug Sect and the most special temple of the six Gelug Sect temples.

The Ganden Monastery consisted of two principal original colleges, Jangtse and Shartse, meaning North Peak and East Peak respectively. The three main sights in the Ganden Monastery are the Serdung, which contains the tomb of Tsongkhapa, the Tsokchen Assembly Hall and the Ngam Cho Khang the chapel where Tsongkhapa traditionally taught. The monastery houses artifacts which belonged to Tsongkhapa.

It contained more than two dozen major chapels with large Buddha statues. The largest chapel was capable of seating 3,500 monks. Tenzin Gyatso, the present Dalai Lama (born 1935), took his final degree examination in Ganden in 1958 and he claims to feel a particularly close connection with Tsongkhapa.

Being the farthest from Lhasa of the three university monasteries, Ganden traditionally had a smaller population with some 6,000 monks in the early 20th century. Today around 500 monks live in the monastery, of whom, about 200 monks belong to the Shartse College, and the others the Jiangtse College. The two colleges used to hold chanting gatherings separately. Nowadays, they hold the gatherings together in the Assembly Hall, which is good for them as it makes them more united. Most of the monks in Gandan are from Tibet, with two from Gansu Province, two from Sichuan Province and a dozen from Qinghai Province. Most of the space inside the main assembly hall was occupied by red cushions and clusters of colorful flags hung down from the ceiling.

Like other monasteries in Tibet, Ganden Monastery also suffered most during the "cultural revolution"(1966-1976). Most of its buildings including the Assembly Hall, the Golden Tomb of Tsong Kha-pa, the Jiangtse College and the shartse College were demolished. Ganden has taken on a completely new look thanks to extensive reconstruction in the 1990s.

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