Lying peacefully in the embrace of the flourishing mountains, Ganden Sumtseling Gompa (Songzanlin Si), also named Guihua Monastery, is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in southwest China that has been playing a significant role in the development of the Tibetan Buddhism.
Songzanlin Monastery wins another name as 'the little Potala Palace', which is derived from that the whole monastery is in the traditional style with mysterious atmosphere. In 1679, Dalailama picked this place as the holy site by divination, and then the magnificent monastery was built up here, where the Tibetans celebrate the annual Gedong Festival. On that day, faithful pilgrims from near and far, with their knees and foreheads knocking the ground at every step, come here to pray.
The journey up the steps that lead to the main prayer hall can prove to be an arduous undertaking. However, it allows people to have a simple touch with the hardship of the pilgrimage route that generations of Buddhists living on the plateau take every year. The main hall in the center of the complex features imposing pillars and murals, which vividly depict the traditions and beliefs of Tibetan Buddhism, such as the "wheel of life" that illustrates the six realms of existence—heaven, demigods, humankind, hell, hungry ghosts and animals.
The inside-halls are exquisite with cloisters running through. The gilded copper roof endows the monastery with strong Tibetan features and the 108 columns downstairs feature the monastery with characteristics of Han nationality. The cloisters are all decorated with elegant sculptures and consummate frescos. Ascend to the roof, where a simply glorious panorama of Zhongdian awaits you. In the living quarters of the Living Buddha, check out the smooth marks along the floor, where thousands have prostrated themselves in front of the Lama. One may even be able to find a monk who can point out the nearby mountain to the south used for Tibetan sky burials.
Opening Hours: 8:30 -- 17:30
20 CNY for kids
30 CNY for adults
Location: 5 kilometer away from the Shangri-la County
Transportation: Shuttle bus and Bus No. 3 will bring you here