Located in Dranang County, Samye Monastery was the first in Tibet to have the Three Jewels (the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha). Its unabbreviated name is “Samye Migyur Lhundrup Paldru Lhakang,” meaning “Boundless Monastery.”
The monastery was built in 779, during the Tubo Dynasty. After a number of expansions, the complex came to cover an area of 110,000 sq. m. The ruins of its original surrounding walls still exist.
The monastery epitomizes the craftsmanship of central China, Tibet and India in a magnificent style. Its central building, the Utse Hall, represents Sumeru, the mythical mountain at the center of the Buddhist cosmos. The four pagodas set at the corners represent the four deva kings of the four quarters.
The monastery’s rare murals were painted in 1506 and have never been renewed. The subjects depicted include sports activities, secular lives, battles between deities, and images of deities and Buddhas.
Its stone carvings are also unique, an important constituent of Tibetan religious art. The Buddhist statues in other monasteries are made of clay or bronze. In Samye, however, the statues are each carved from one single block of stone.