or Tsamda (Zhada), is one of the three regions of Ngari,
situated to the South-west of Mount Kailash and bordering India
on the west. Tsamda is encircled by a unique earthen forest. Langchen
Khabab (Sutlej River), one of the four rivers of Ngari, flows westward
through the region. Tsamda (Zhada), with a population of 5,087,
is currently one of the seven counties in the Ngari prefecture.
The main produce of the region comes from the nomadic people and
includes, amongst other things, butter, meat and wool. Tsamda is
particularly well-known for its numbers of Zo (both male and female
Main Tourist Attractions of Guge
Ruins of the Guge Kingdom are a modern reminder of the
history of Ngari and Tibet. Guge was a regional kingdom, which was
established in the 10th century after the monarchy of Tibet collapsed.
The ruins of the Guge Kingdom cover 180,000 square meters on a hilltop
near a river and used to include a castle of 300 rooms. The kings,
who ruled over the region for 700 years, built their palaces on
the summits and the Guge monasteries on the mountainsides. There
are 300 caves, where the common people lived, at the foot of the
Nowadays, the Guge Kingdom is
not only a holy site for pilgrims but also a rich resource for research
into Tibetan archaeology and history. The main sites of interest
for tourists are the Red Temple, White Temple. Samsara Temple, Palace
Hall and Guardian's Hall. The murals, sculpture and stone carving
represent the unique style of the Guge Kingdom, which bear witness
to the profound religious beliefs, the recorded history and culture,
and the artistic skills, of the people. The themes of those murals,
which are hundreds of years old but still in splendid condition,
are mainly stories of Buddha Shakyamuni, and the Kings of Guge and
their ministers. According to the book "Ngari Tibet" the
Guge Kingdom was listed by the States Council as one of the first
key sites to be preserved for its cultural relics."
monastery was founded in 997 by the second Guge King, Song-Ngi
(his ordination name was Lha Lama Yeshi-O) and Lochen Rinchen Sangpo.
The monastery, which was built some 20 kilometers away from the
ancient palace, symbolizes Mount Sumeru. It is architecturally unique
to the world, as it had been constructed without any pillars to
support the roof. Inside the monastery, there were seven main temples,
including Golden Temple, White Temple and Gathering Hall, and some
of those temples contained several smaller shrines in which to place
the precious images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, dharma books, paintings
and dharma products. Some of the most precious Tholing objects are:
Dechog (Chakrasamvara), a golden Buddha, a medicine Buddha, an Avalokitesvara,
a white Tara.
During the Cultural Revolution
in Tibet, the monastery was destroyed and most of the contents lost
forever Fortunately, however, a few of the precious objects were
brought to India and a new Tholing monastery was founded in South
India to house them.
The Earthen Forest
is one of the visitor attractions in Tsamda. The regional county
is situated in the forest and there is easy access for tourists
to walk in the unique landscape and to view the wonderful scenery
of the earthen forest. It is believed that the region was originally
full of water. Eventually, as the water level decreased, the topsoil
was washed away by floodwater and formed the earthen forest, an
amazing and skilful creation of many different shapes.
Donggar and Piyang Grottoes,
believed to be some 1,000 years old, lie around 40 kilometers from
Tsamda County and the ruins of the Guge Kingdom. Donggar is a village
in the foothills of a mountain. The 200 caves of Donggar Grottoes
are in the cliffs to the north of the village and cover about 2
kilometers of the mountain. The ancient murals, figures and models
are vivid representation of Buddhists stories and there are various
kinds of mandala and so on.
Some of the Deeds of the Guge Kings
Tashi Gon, the first King of
the Guge Kingdom, had two sons - Song-Ngi, born in 975, and Kori.
Song-Ngi was crowned the King of Guge at a young age. He had two
sons - Deba Raza and Naga Raza. Kori had a son called Lhade. Kori
was responsible for sending twenty-one young Tibetans, including
Lochen Rinchen Sangpo and Lochung Legpe Yeshi, to Kashmir with a
large amount of gold to learn Buddhism and arts and sciences (including
medicine, astronomy, painting and writing). Lochen Rinchen Sangpo
received teachings from 75 Indian masters and became learned in
both Sutra and Tantric Buddhism and general knowledge, including
literature, composition, and the science of healing and medicine.
On his return to Ngari, he translated a number of Indian Sutra and
Tantric texts into Tibetan and established the tradition of transmitting
empowerment and practicing in solitary retreats. In addition, he
translated the eight chapters of the science of the medicine and
its commentary "Tsed Don Daser" into Tibetan and introduced
the teaching tradition.
Later, two great Indian masters
were invited to Ngari and, with their help, the Mahayana tradition
of Buddhism and the four classes of Tantric teachings were translated
and the tradition established of training in control over undesirable
behavior to gain ultimate happiness. The famous Tholing monastery
was then built in 997, with sponsorship from the Guge King.
While King Song-Ngi was ruling
the country, he studied the religious acts of his predecessors and
grew increasingly dissatisfied with worldly activities. Finally,
he left the kingdom to his younger brother, Kori, and, in 1017,
he and his two sons were ordained (according to monastic law) by
the Abbot, Yeshi Sangpo. The King's ordination name was Lha Lama
in order to secure the region against political interference and
to protect Buddhism, Lha Lama Yeshi Od, although no longer King,
went to war. He lost in battle against Gorlog, a Muslim country,
and was captured. The Gorlog King announced two conditions by which
the life of Lha Lama Yeshi Od could be saved. Firstly, Lha Lama
Yeshi Od was told to stop believing in the "Three Jewels",
Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and to convert to Islam. Secondly, the
King demanded his own weight in gold. Lha Lama Yeshi Od refused
to accept these conditions. While he was in prison, the news reached
the Guge Kingdom and Jangchup Od went to Gorlog and visited the
imprisoned Lha Lama Yeshi-O. Jangchup-O informed him that the Guge
Kingdom had collected an amount of gold but they had not yet gathered
as much as the size of his head. Lha Lama Yeshi-O told Jangchup-O
that he was old and he wouldn't be able to help anyone. Instead,
he should use the gods to invite the great Indian master, Atisha
and to restore the Tholing monastery. Lha Lama Yeshi-O’s final
words were “do everything to preserve and promote Buddhism”.
Lha Lama Yeshi Od passed away in the Garlog prison in 1037.
King Kori built Korcheg monastery
and three other monasteries. His son, Lha De, invited the two great
Indian masters, Pu-va-She and Meru to come to Guge and translated
several Buddhist philosophical books. Lhade had three sons; the
eldest, Gelong Sheva Od, was highly-educated in Tibetan and Indian
studies and translated many Buddhist books, including the philosophical
book by the great Indian master, Shewa Tso, ("Shantarakrhita").
The second son, Lha Lama Chub Od, put all his energy into collecting
a large amount of gold. He sent Tseltrim Gyal and several companions
with the gold to invite the great Indian master, Atisha, to come
to Guge. The master came in 1072 and his arrival brought about a
restoration of Tibetan Buddhism, which had been dying. In Tibetan
history, this period is known as "Tenpa Pyider", "the
second flourishing of Buddha Dharma".