Tholing Monastery (Tuolin si 托林寺) is the oldest monastery (or gompa) in the Ngari Prefecture of western Tibet. It is situated in Tholing (Zanda), Zanda County, near the Indian border of Ladakh. It was built in 997 AD by Yeshe-Ö, the second King of the Guge Kingdom. In the Tibetan language 'Tholing' means "hovering in the sky forever" and is reflected by the location of the monastery at an elevation of 12,400 feet (3,800 m). The complex includes three temples, the Yeshe-O Temple, the Lhakhang Karpo and the Dukhang. There are many ancient, precious, and well-preserved frescoes. It has a well laid out street, post office and telecommunication facilities. The isolated military installation of Zanda is nearby. Tholing is 12 miles (19 km) east of Tsaparang, which is 163 miles (262 km) from Darchen.
The monastery is one of the first temples built at the start of the "second diffusion" of Buddhism in Tibet. It was built in 997 AD by King Yeshe-Ö, when Tholing was the capital of Guge. The king sponsored lay young men who would become noviciates of the monastery. For this purpose, he sponsored a fellowship for Rinchen Zangpo to travel to Kashmir and India to study and translate. He was one of 21 young monks who traveled to Vikramshila Mahavihara, a specialist institution in tantra, for training. Only two monks, Richen Zangpo and Lekpai Sherap, survived the severe climatic conditions, snake bites and diseases, and were able to return to Tibet. Rinchen Zangpo built three of the major temples at the monastery.
The monastery became better known internationally, after Lama Govinda, a German Buddhist monk, accompanied by his wife, visited the monastery in 1948. He presented pictures of the monastery's decorations, statues and paintings to the outside world. During the years of the Cultural Revolution, the temples were destroyed or left to weather in the elements. In the present day, the monastery is mostly in ruins. However, it still retains many images and scores of well-preserved murals which are made in the west Tibetan style.
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