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Tsurphu Monastery is a gompa that serves as the traditional seat of the Karmapa, the head of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. It is located in Gurum in Doilungdêqên District, Tibet Autonomous Region, China, 70 kilometers (43 mi) from Lhasa.

The monastery is about 4,300 meters (14,100 ft) above sea level. The gompa, the traditional seat of the Karmapa lamas, is about 28 kilometers (17 mi) up the Dowo Lung Valley on the north side of the river.

In History

Tsurphu was founded by Düsum Khyenpa, 1st Karmapa Lama (1110-1193) in 1159 after he visited the site and laid the foundation for an establishment of a seat thereby making offerings to the local protectors, the dharmapalas and territorial divinities (Wylie: yul lha). In 1189 he revisited the site and founded his main seat there. The monastery grew to hold 1000 monks.

Origin of the Reincarnation System

It is worth mentioning that the remarkable reincarnation system of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism was originated here. Before the death of the first Karmapa Du Songchenpa, he handed over a letter prophesying his own reincarnation to his disciple Drogon Deqian, which created the world-renowned Tibetan Living Buddha reincarnation system. In 1204 AD, when the second Karmapa was born and was certified as the reincarnation of the first Karmapa Du Songchenpa, the reincarnation system of the Tibetan Living Buddha was formally established and gradually adapted by other sects of Tibetan Buddhism. It has been reincarnated without interruption for seventeen consecutive generations, which made the dharma lineage of Karma Kagyu gain a reputation of "golden inheritance". It shows that every Karmapa who reincarnated has attained enlightenment that is as precious, pure and perfect as a golden rosary.

Construction Layout

Tsurphu Monastery sits north and faces south, surrounded by mountains in the south, west and north. With Dukang Hall as the center, there is a tall Buddha exhibition platform at the north foot of the high mountains on the south bank of the river.

The main hall is surrounded by 4 Datsans, and a magnificent ancient Buddhist temple is composed of a group of buildings such as sutra halls, shrines, monks' residences and lachangs and quiet rooms. Buildings such as a large-scale lectern are also being restored and constructed. There are now more than 300 monks in the monastery.


Tsurphu Monastery has a large number of rare cultural relics. The Jiangpu Temple Building Stele, which is now located in Tsurphu Monastery's main hall, is about two and a half meters high and half a meter wide. The ancient Tibetan script was carved on it, which has important historical value for studying the politics, economy, and religion of the Tubo period.

The silver statue created by the eighth Karmapa to commemorate his guru is the treasure of the Tsurphu monastery. Legend has it that after the silver statue was formed, it floated in the air for seven days, so there is a saying of "Buddha floating in the air".

The 6-meter high Big Buddha cast by the second Karmapa.

There's a spring near Tsurphu Monastery, and the water is clear and sweet. It's made from Karmapa's extraordinary power by poking the ground with a stick.

There are also a series of famous scenic spots on the Jichenpo Mountain that surrounds the Tsurphu Monastery, such as the heavenly burial platform, the retreat room, the Karmapa retreat caves, and the mantras left on the stone by the 17th Karmapa when he circuited the mountain.   

Here's a video about Tsurphu Monastery for watching more details.

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