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Labrang Monastery

This majestic lamasery is one of China’s six great monasteries of the Gelugpa section.The others are Ganden,Sera and Drepung,Tashilunpo in Tibet and Taer Si in Qinghai.Labrang was founded in 1709 by the first Jiamuyang,or Living Buddha,called E’angzongzhe,a scholar-abbot who came from nearby Gnjia.Within the Tibetan religious hierarchy,his current incarnation as the Sixth Jiamuyang ranks next in importance only to that of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama.Once the home of 4,000 scholarly monks,Labrang had jurisdiction over more than  100 smaller monasteries and gained its wealth through taxes and donations.

  There are many important religious ceremonies  and festivals that take place at Labrang in which monks,locals and nomads from the grasslands take part.Tibetans us a lunar calendar,meaning that dates for the festivals change from year to year.One of the most important is the Monlam Festival celebrating Buddha’s victory over his six opponents,which takes place three days after the Tibetan New Year.The celebrations last about three weeks in Lhasa,but are shortened to four days at Labrang.

  On the first morning,an enormous thanka,a sacred painting of the Buddha on cloth,measuring 20 by 30 meters,is unfurled on the hillside facing the monastery on the opposite side of the Daxia River.The elaborate ceremonies that follow include processions,bathing riguals and many prayers.On the second day,masked Cham dances are performed by students from the college of Danding led by the god Yama.The third day has a night ceremony with a display of Yak-butter lanterns and sculptures,holy food presented to the gods,and on the last day the Maitreya statue is paraded throughout the monastery.