This active hilltop monastery, known as Galden Jampaling Monastery of around 1000 monks dominates Chamdo. Galden Jampaling Monastery was founded in 1444 by Jangsem Sherab Zangpo, a disciple of Tsongkhapa. It was destroyed in 1912 and then rebuilt in 1917, after the Tibetan army retook Chamdo.
Pilgrims circumambulate the exterior of the walled compound in the mornings and it’s worth following them on at least one circuit. Behind Galden Jampaling Monastery, to the north of town, trails lead up to a sky-burial site and views over the city. The steep paved road up to the east gate is one of the town’s most interesting, lined with Tibetan houses, tailors and prayer-wheel repair workshops.
The first building on the right is the impressive Tsenyi Lhakhang(Dialectic College), behind which is a debating courtyard. Just to the left of the college is a side entrance; go in here, take an immediate left up the stairs and then turn right at the top. This leads to a protector chapel packed with guns, knives and pistols – echoes of the region’s warrior past.
Back outside, Galden Jampaling Monastery’s enormous kitchen is well worth a look, but only men can enter.
The main assembly hall is particularly impressive, especially when it is packed with hundreds of murmuring monks. This is probably the largest assembly of monks you can see in Tibet these days, out festival times. The glorious inner sanctum is dominated by Sakyamuni, Tsongkhapa and Atisha. The statue second to the left is the Pakhpala, the line of religious leaders that head the monastery. The beared statue in the far right is of Galden Jampaling Monastery’s founder.
In the main monastery courtyard is the gonkhang, lined with fantastic murals and statues of protector gods, and lots of old armour. The Jamkhang to the south holds a large statues of Jampa.
Behind the gonkhang is the former residence of the Pakhpala, whose 11th reincarnation currently works for the Tibetan government in Lhasa. The exit in the southwest corner leads to the Tsenkhang(earth spirit house), hidden around the back of the interior courtyard, with a fantastic collection of protectors strung up on a series of pillars like a crack squad of gravity-defying martial arts warriors. Look also the skeleton and monkey outfits worn during cham chances, as well as a stuffed bear. Around the back is a small tsampa mill.