Reting Monastery is located in Tanggu township, Linzhou county, 240 kilometers north of Lhasa. It's the seat of Reting Rinpoche. As the first monastery of the Kadam school in Tibet, with a history of more than 900 years, Reting Monastery is founded in 1057 by Dromtön, who's also the founder of the Kadam school. It was initially associated with Atisha (Jowo-je) but in its later years, it had an important connection with the Gelugpa order and the Dalai Lamas. Two regents – the de facto rulers of Tibet for the interregnum between the death of a Dalai Lama and the majority of his next reincarnation – were chosen from the Reting abbots.
Pre-1950 photographs show Reting Monastery sprawled gracefully across the flank of a juniper-clad hill in the Rong-chu Valley. Reting Monastery was devastated by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. Still, the site is one of the most beautiful in the region. It is 25km from the crossroads settlement of Phongdo, which has a ruined dzong and is overlooked by a mountain of near-perfect conical proportions. There are a handful of shops and restaurants here.
Reting Monastery is still graced by surrounding cypress forests. A 40mins kora leads from the guesthouse around the monastery ruins, passing several stone carvings, a series of eight chortens and an active sky burial site. Further up the hillside is the medication retreat where Tsongkhapa composed the Graduated Path, a Key Gelugpa text. The large escarpment draped with prayer flags to the right is the Sengye Drak (Lion’s Rock), where there are several more retreats.
What To See at Reting Monastery
The main Buddha worshiped in the Reting Monastery is Guhyasamāja vajra. And there are a lot of historical sites to see. The main temple pillars are said to be presented by Dragon King with gold and jade pillars during construction. There are 30,000 ancient cypress trees around the temple, which are more than a thousand years old. Legend has it that the Avalokitesvara bodhisattva once practiced in the mountains. After he succeeded, he shaved off his hair, which became the ancient cypress forest and it never withered. Another legend is that there used to be a barren mountain without grass. Later, the king of Tibet, Songtsan Gampo, made an inspection tour here and sprinkled the water washed his hair to the hillside, and prayed for blessings. Thus, 30,000 green cypress trees grew on the mountain. "Reting" means to eradicate all troubles and last till detaching the samsara.
On the west side of the temple is the famous "Phabantang". "Phaban" means huge stone, and "tang" means lawn or dam. According to Tibetan folklore, on July 15 of every lunar goat year in the Tibetan calendar, hundreds of thousands of goddesses, headed by Dakini, set up altars to expiate the sins for all beings. For this reason, this traditional festival has been formed in history. On this day, devout men and women from hundreds of miles away would gather on this beautiful rocky pasture, present various offerings, chant mantras, pray for peace and prosperity, and perfect merit.
Every year on the 15th of July in the Tibetan calendar, it is the most exciting and grand day of the Phabantang Festival. Originally it was a purely religious activity. Later, it gradually developed into a comprehensive festival for farmers and herdsmen to exchange various commodities and carry out recreational activities. That day, there is a horse race in the morning. At 12:30 p.m., it’s the time when hundreds of thousands of goddesses set up the altar, there’s a ceremony to serve the gurus and chant sutras. God dance in the afternoon is the climax of the festival. With the vivid dancing, ups and downs of the dharma horn and drum music, people can understand the emotions of truth, goodness, beauty, and the good wishes of exorcising demons and carrying forward the dharma from various dancing gestures, masks, and forms of ghosts and gods.
How To Get To Reting Monastery
Reting Monastery is 224 km away from Lhasa and it takes 5.5 hours by car. Along the way, the scenery is beautiful. The driver would usually stop to let you take photos. Our suggested itinerary is a 2-day tour. On the first day, you can visit Namtso scenic spot, then stay overnight in Damxung; On the next day, before returning to Lhasa, we can drive you from Damxung to Reting Monastery. You can also get there by bus at Lhasa's eastern suburb station. The fare is 50 yuan. The monastery opens at 07:00-19:00.
Recommended Tours Including Reting Monastery
This journey starts from exploring Lhasa city, then drive to Namtso for a ‘Heavenly Lake’ experience. On the way, you will enjoy the vast grassland and charming natural scenery. The last station is to head to Tsedang for discovering the "cradle of Tibetan civilization" and Samye Monastery, the first monastery in Tibet.