Tsangna Monastery, where “Tsangna” means “place of retreat for meditation” in Tibetan, was originally built around the 1340s and belongs to the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is under the jurisdiction of the Katok Monastery in Baiyu County.
Located on Tsangna Mountain in Yingbolo Village, at an altitude of 3504 meters, the existing buildings were mostly restored and rebuilt on the original site after the 1980s.
The monastery complex, with its alternating red and white colors, is magnificent and imposing, and every detail seems to be carefully crafted, exuding solemnity and dignity, evoking awe and reverence.
Three Precious Treasures
The 1st is the true relic of the Buddha Shakyamuni.
The 2nd is the footprint stone of the great master Jigme Lingpa from eight hundred years ago.
The 3rd is the precious scripture of the Buddhist College, a handwritten manuscript by the venerable master Tubton Chokyi Drakpa Rinpoche, which is an explanatory text of the practice of the Great Blissful Mother Yeshe Tsogyal.
Tsangna Monastery is located 900 meters above the Suomo River Valley. From the observation platform on the mountaintop, one can overlook the town of Ma’erkang nestled in the mountain valley, with the Suomo River flowing through the city.
Tsangna Monastery was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and a new modern-style temple was built nearby in 2004. The new monastery consists of a six-story main building, four monk dormitory buildings, a temple guesthouse, and a reception room for visitors. The monastery is situated in an open and beautiful environment with snow-capped mountains, alpine meadows, and pristine forests.
The 1st floor of the main building is the Great Scripture Hall, the 2nd floor is the Preaching Hall, the 3rd floor is the Scripture House, the 4th floor is the Multimedia Classroom, the 5th floor is the Golden Buddha Hall, and the 6th floor is the Exhibition Hall, with a golden roof on top.
The construction of the main hall was huge, with a steel-concrete structure and all walls made of granite. The main entrance to the Scripture Hall is four huge dragon pillars with empty carvings. There are four huge Four Heavenly Kings murals, and there are four 20-meter-high Han white jade square pillars inside the Scripture Hall, with exquisite carvings. All the wooden decorative materials inside the Scripture Hall are made of rosewood, and the lighting fixtures are imported from Italy. The eight golden Buddhas inside the Scripture Hall come from Nepal, and the roof is covered with gold, shining brilliantly from afar.
In front of the main hall, several tall pillars are carved with loongs that seem to be turning the river and sea upside down. The hollow-carved dragon embodies the superb skills of the carver. Under the cushion of the pillar, there are still traditional Tibetan lions squatting, calmly and fiercely like guardian beasts, silently guarding the peace and tranquility of the monastery.
The solemn gate of the main hall is painted with the pattern of the Seven Treasures and Eight Precious Objects in Tibetan Buddhism. The main hall, which covers more than a thousand square meters and can accommodate more than three thousand people, is filled with exquisite thangkas. The dome of the main hall is painted with a colorful Mandala.
Small Scripture Hall
Tsangna Monastery Small Scripture Hall is located in the southwest corner of the monastery and is a typical Tibetan Buddhist temple building. It is a two-story stone-wood structure with a multi-eave gable roof and a zigzag-shaped wooden frame. The exterior walls are made of stone, with a larger base and a smaller top, and the inner walls are straight. There are 20 steps of hanging walkways.
The layout is rectangular, facing east, with a vestibule, a scripture hall, and a main hall. It is 23.4 meters wide and 26.5 meters deep, covering an area of 620 square meters. The beams, columns, and brackets are painted with bright colors. The Small Scripture Hall on the northwest corner of the second floor houses a large number of precious cultural relics, including dozens of Buddha statues and murals from Nepal.
A Buddha niche is a niche-shaped pavilion designed to enshrine Buddha statues. They are often decorated with loongs and can be single or multi-layered, or even extended horizontally to form a continuous wall. They are mainly made of wood and decorated with lotus flowers, auspicious dragons, and other Buddhist patterns, with relief carvings or inlaid with mother-of-pearl, colored stones, ivory, and bones.
The styles of Tibetan and Han niches differ slightly. Tibetan niches are mainly painted, with dragons, heavenly maidens, and guardian figures as the main themes.
The second floor of the old temple of Tsangna Monastery houses a collection of Tibetan-style old Buddha niches, which were collected, restored, and preserved by “Gama Rinpoche” during the reconstruction of Tsangna Monastery. Some of them are more than 400 years old, with different styles, shapes, and decorative techniques.
The basic structure of these niches is divided into three parts. The lower part is the niche cabinet, with drawers on top and a frame layout below.
Some drawers and cabinets are solid and cannot be opened, purely for decorative purposes, with decorative patterns on the feet. The niche cabinets are slightly deeper than the upper niches, with protruding tabletops for placing water bowls or oil lamps.
The upper niches generally have door-shaped frames, two or three layers, with lotus petal patterns, swastika patterns, or diamond patterns. The niche face generally has a three-part layout, with the middle niche for Buddha statues and the two sides for bookcases, or a three-part niche, with the middle slightly wider, double doors, and different-sized niches inside.
The niche frame is decorated with shaped frame panels. Some niches are open-style, with different Buddha niches arranged in different positions and levels.
The top of the niche is generally decorated with a double Loong arching over a Mani pearl, symbolizing the protection of Buddha’s teachings. The Loongs are decorated with carved and painted colors or gold powder. Niches can be arranged independently or in a continuous wall style.
In the 1340s, the knowledgeable monk “Xijie Jiangcan” from the Katok Monastery returned to Gyarong. He constructed a simple retreat on the Yampaling Mountain (now renamed as Tsangna Mountain) and practiced there for many years. As more disciples came to study under him, a temple named Lama Temple was built, later renamed as Tsangna Monastery.
The monastery has been home to two great masters in its history: Kaden Triba, the first living Buddha of MarKang Temple, Losang Donggen Lundrub, and Kaden Shyal · Zhetan Denzal.
The present glory of Tsangna Monastery is attributed to the wisdom of the living Buddha “Yanban” within the monastery. With innate wisdom and admirable determination, Tsangna Monastery was able to gather a large amount of donations in just a few years, allowing for the reconstruction of the original monastery.
It is a monastery that combines traditional and modern elements. The living Buddha’s extensive travels abroad have led to the performance of worldly wonders in this remote mountainous area, where the prosperity of Han, Tibetan, and even European and American cultures are dedicated to the deities by devout craftsmen.