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Songzanlin Monastery
Songzanlin Monastery: 
Yunnan - Shangri-La; 
Travel in Shangri-La, Yunnan Gedan Songzanlin Monastery, also called Guihua Monastery, is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan province, as well as one of the 13 large lamaseries in the Kangzang region (the joint area of Tibet, Sichuan and Yunnan).

The monastery is 5km from the seat of Zhongdian County. Construction began in 1679 and was completed in 1681. It is said that the Fifth Dalai Lama chose the site of the monastery through divination and named it "Gedan Songzanlin Monastery". In 1724, during the reign of Emperor Yongzheng in the Qing Dynasty, the monastery was renamed the "Guihua Monastery". During its time of greatest prosperity, there were more than 3,000 monks in the temple.

Built along the mountains with a magnificent facade, the present monastery is a faithful imitation of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Covering an area of 33.35 hectares, the monastery has solid walls and five gates. Two main lamaseries, Zhacang and Jikang, command the highest position in the architectural complex. Also listed among the 13 large lamaseries in Kangzang region, they are both Tibetan-style watchtowers and are surrounded by eight sub-lamaseries and the dormitories or the lamas.

A five-story Tibetan-style building serves as the main hall in this monastery. Seen from the distance, the gilded copper stupa at the top of the structure and the gilded copper tiles seem to shine eternally in the plateau sunlight. The lower tier in this structure is supported by 108 giant  pillars,an auspicious number in Buddhism. The 16 colorful pictures hanging high in the hall are said to have been painted by renowned lamas with golden liquid given by the Fifth Dalai Lama. Brightened with numerous butter-oil lamps, the hall can hold 1,600 lamas sitting in meditation or chanting the Buddhist scriptures.

The monastery has many treasures. The most famous are the eight gold-covered sculptures of Sakyamuni, fashioned between the time of the Fifth and Seventh Dalai Lamas. In the early Qing Dynasty, the rulers of Lijiang, the Mu Family, presented the monastery with dozens of bronze sculptures, the "Ganzur" scriptures hand-written in liquid gold, scriptures written on pattra leaves, gold lamps, and many exquisite gilded silver incense burners. Every morning, noon and evening, the solemn tolling of the bells and the sound of the drums from the bell and drum towers can be heard several kilometers away. Admission Fee:  RMB 20
Time for a Visit:  Two hours
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Songzanlin Monastery
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