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Kumbum Jampa-Ling - sKu-‘bum Byams-pa gling - (Ta'er 塔尔寺) Monastery :
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The Story of the Invasion of Tibet by Chinese Forces and the subsequent Flight of the Dalai Lama. Must See ! - No longer available
The closest historic and cultural destination to Xining is the Kumbum Monastery, known in Chinese as Ta'Er Si.
The Kumbum is a Buddhist Monastery that is important and interesting for many varied reasons and is known throughout the world, mainly because of its religious function as the second of the six important Monasteries of the dominant Yellow Hat Sect of Tibetan Buddhism-Lamaism. The Yellow Hat Sect is the 'ruling' sect to which belong both the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama.
That said, there are however many histories and tales attached to this large Buddhist Monastery in Qinghai, all reasons that draw the crowds to the Kumbum.
To give a brief overview:
First and foremost, the Kumbum Monastery is one of only 17 surviving original Tibetan Monasteries in the World. Until roughly 1949 AD and the establishment of The Peoples Republic of China there were an estimated 3800 Temples and Monasteries within (U-Tsang, Amdo and Kham Provinces of) Tibet, however -for various reasons- nearly all of these were wiped out during the 'Peaceful Liberation of Tibet', which started in early 1950 AD with a 20.000 Men strong invasion and in some ways is still in progress today. Of the 17 surviving Monasteries, the Kumbum (Ta'Er) Monastery and the Labrang Monastery are the only ones surviving within Qinghai (formerly: Amdo). Hence, the Monastery is a unique Architectural Wonder and lovers of original Tibetan architecture and those seeking of the Tibetan past, culture and religion can be well accommodated at Kumbum. They flock there in increasing numbers.

Another reason for the high name of the Monastery is found in the fact that the name of the 14Th Dalai Lama, a Man today regarded by many as the sole spiritual leader of all Tibetans, is firmly attached to the Kumbum Monastery. To be more exact, on July the 6Th of 1935 AD the village of Takster or Hongya Cun at only some 40 kilometers distance south of the Kumbum Monastery, saw the birth of one Lhamo Döndrub, who according to Tibetan Religious Beliefs was found to be the re-incarnation of the (13Th) Dalai Lama, a 'Living Buddha'. As described by the Dalai Lama's elder brother Thubten Dsjigme Norbu (recognized: Thakster Rinpoche, Rinpoche=reincarnation), the new baby was born into this world under the dim light of an oil lamp, amidst the animals on the ground floor of the family home. It was the traditional way.
The young baby boy who was born that fateful night amid such humble surroundings lives today as
Soundbonus - From 700 Years of Music in Tibet - 'Good Morning in the Zhanskar Valley'. By Unknown Artists.
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Map Tibet Historical Borders
A Schematic Map of Historical Tibet, today Tibet Autonomous Region, Qinghai Province and a part of Sichuan province.
Included for reference are current International Borders, provincial borders, locations and names of main cities and towns, main rivers and lakes, mountains, important Tibetan-Buddhist Monasteries and other places of significance.
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Today Tibet only exists as Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Tourist visits require an aditional visa !
And as if this were not enough, even more famous names are attached to the Monastery. For a proper understanding of their stories however, it is necessary to first learn a little more of the high religious rank and historic significance of this place.
As should be noted, in history the Kumbum Monastery was second in importance only to the Drepung Monastery in Lhasa (Tibet AR), which was for a long time the center of religious power in the Nation. The key of the Holy Status of the Monastery lie in its historic origins as it was built on the site of the Birthplace of the main inspiring figure of the Yellow Hat Sect, Tsongkapa 'The Reformer'. According to legend, Tsongkapa was born in 1357 AD under a Tree that stood on this location. Only a few years later the mother of Tsongkapa  and some locals established a stupa in commemoration of the birth, providing a first recognizable Buddhist prayer site.
The Monastery itself was only established much later, but on direct orders of no one else than Sonam-Gyatso, who today is recognized as the 3rd Dalai Lama, but who in fact was the First Dalai Lama.
To be exact, in the 16Th Century, when Sonam-Gyatso was on his way to meet the befriended Mongolian Altan Khan near Kokonor, he first made his way to the isolated village of Lusar in order to receive the Blessings of Tsongkapa, the Great Reformer and Yellow Hat-Sect founder. After visiting the Holy Tree on the spot where Tsongkhapa had been born, Sonam-Gyatso then traveled North to Kokonor (Qinghai Lake) where he was to receive the Honorary Title 'Great Ocean', which translates into Tibetan as Dalai. Hence, Sonam reached (a further stage of) enlightenment, became the First Dalai Lama and went on to establish many religious deeds and traditions. Among his first action, Sonam, now Dalai Lama, 'requested' one Rinchen-tsondru-gyeltsen to construct a larger monastery at this site, of which the new Dalai Lama then appointed him as the 1st Abbott. The complete Kumbum Monastery was erected in 1583 AD, which today counts as the official founding date. At the same time a fence was put up around the "Tree of
Great Merit". In addition an annual Prayer Festival (sMon-lam) was inaugurated to commemorate the visit of Sonam-Gyatso. This yearly Religious Festival is similar to the original (lost) one held in Lhasa.

Afterwards the complex grew into one of the main bastions of this particular line of thought. The Main Shrine Hall of the Monastery is a golden roofed Hall, which is known as the Serdong or 'Golden Tiled Temple' throughout Tibet and Mongolia, which was supposedly built around the original Tsongkapa Birth-place Tree, since known as the 'Tree of Merit'. The Tree of Merit, as legend has it, sprang up on the exact spot where a drop of blood fell when the babies umbilical cord was cut. Several wild stories have been 'established' by western visitors as the the exact nature of- and the beliefs surrounding the Tree, but according to Heinrich Harrer none of the writers who have described 'the Tree' were ever allowed to see the real Holy Tree. The best description is thus derived from legend and holds that it is a sandalwood Tree that has 100.000 leaves that never fade and all carry the 'mark of the (Face o/t) Buddha'. When in bloom, its flowers spread a sweet seductive smell that is more fragrant then others. Supposedly the Tsongkhapa Tree enjoys everlasting life as well.

Thus, from the Mind, Body and Idea's of Tsongkhapa grew a great religious tradition and a large Monastery, a monastery which was the most important one in the Khamdo Region. As a result of its religious importance several famous persons then passed through it or even lived there for some Time. The Kumbum Monastery was also the frequent residence of reincarnations of both the Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas.

Somewhere in 1905/06, the 13Th Dalai Lama traveled from Lhasa to the Kumbum Monastery near Xining and from there on to the Ching Court at Beijing, where he was granted an audience with Emperor Guangxu and Empress Dowager Cixi. The Emperor tried to stress Tibet's subservient role, although according to popular sources (unconfirmed) the Dalai Lama refused to kowtow to him. The 13Th Dalai Lama stayed in Beijing until December of 1908 AD when he returned to Tibet.
Afterwards, while in Tibet the Dalai Lama began reorganizing his Tibetan government, the Qing Dynasty (1644 AD - 1911 AD) organized a military expedition, which was sent into Tibet during the short summer of 1910. Taken aback by the openly hostile actions the 13Th Dalai Lama once again left Tibet, this time fleeing to safety within Darjeeling in North-India, avoiding capture by the Qing Troops. In India the Dalai Lama was warmly welcomed by the British, with whom he established further friendly contacts.

Another memorable occasion came in 1949 AD,  when emissaries from the Council of Khenpo's identified another 'soul boy' to be living in the Amdo Region, the young boy, who was then 4 years old, inevitably wound up at the Kumbum Monastery where he was to be further examined by its Monks and Administrator. Interestingly, the Abbott of the Monastery at that Time was none other than Thubten Dsjigme Norbu, the elder brother of the (current) 14Th Dalai Lama.
The Soul Boy and suspected incarnation of the Panchen Lama then became a Monk at the Monastery. Initially, the boy was to be sent to Tibet forthwith for initiations and enthronement, but regional, religious and even international politics intervened. It was only after several years in 1949 AD that the new 10Th Panchen was recognized as the legitimate and only reincarnation of the 9Th Panchen Lama (who died in Jyekundo, Amdo, Tibet in 1937 AD) and then only by an emmissary of the Chinese Kuomintang Government who nominally controlled the Kumbum Region in extreme East-Tibet through the Hui Ma Clique of Warlords. Factually, the 10Th Panchen was kept at Kumbum Monastery in a region well under Chinese Control for various political reasons. He was finally recognized by 'Lhasa' and thus by 'Tibetans' (and Mongolians) in the form of an agreement with the 14Th Dalai Lama in 1952 AD.

Another great person who passed through the Kumbum Monastery, albeit only after Death, is Genghis Khan. In short, the Great Khan is supposed to have succumbed not very far from Lanzhou in south Ningxia Region near Liupan Shan (six Bends Mountain) or according to another version at Xinglong Mountain even closer to Lanzhou. It is said that after Genghis succumbed from his war-wounds acquired at the Battle of Khara-Koto (Heicheng), his corps and coffin were not returned to Mongolia but hidden for safe-keeping inside the Grand Buddha Hall of one of The Temples on the (Xinlong) Mountain. According to the Xinlong version of the legend, The Great Khan then lay there fairly undisturbed for centuries. The situation supposedly remained unchanged and 'secret' until (the middle of) 1949 AD when his remains were removed and taken to Ta'Er Monastery (Kumbum Monastery) near Xining (Silung) in Amdo Province of eastern Tibet (now Qinghai Province) for safe-keeping from the advancing and godless Chinese Communist Armies.  At the Time, the Kumbum Monastery and Xining Region fell under command of Warlord Ma Bufeng who had been handed the responsibility for a last stand against the Communists. During the Long March the Tibetan populace as well as the Hui Warlords of Gansu and Qinghai had fought the communist armies tooth and nail during their trek across the eastern end of the Tibetan Plateaux. Hence this move.
In an even more interesting episode, only five years later when Tibet was absorbed by The Peoples Republic of China in a short war, one of the first actions of the Chinese Forces was to reclaim the supposed body of Genghis Khan. According to the Chinese Government, the Coffin and Bier were then claimed by the Inner-Mongolian Authorities and taken to Ejin Horo Qi (Banner) in the Ordos Desert Prefecture, where they now rest inside what is known as 'The Mausoleum of Genghis Khan'. Today however, no one believes this is the true corpse of Genghis and so the Quest to find his Tomb and remains continues.
of Haidong Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (海东地区) situated between
Today Kumbum Monastery is the main tourist attraction in East Qinghai Province, located at only 26 kilometers from the City near the village of Huangzhong, today part of Ping'An CountyXining and Lanzhou. In 1990 AD the monastery was nearly destroyed in an earthquake and the following heavy snows of an unusually harsh winter, damaging many of its buildings. However in the aftermath, the Provincial Government provided funds for a nearly complete restauration of the entire complex. Eversince the Monastery with its unique Tibetan athmosphere has grown each year in popularity. Visitors to the Monastery are allowed to view 6 main Temple Halls of the Complex, but certainly not all of the buildings and halls. A great experience is the scenic clockwise around hiking Tour around the monastery guided by Buddhist Monks.
Although officially no photography is allowed inside all Temple Halls, there is plenty to witness, see and photograph on each and every visit.

The most special Day of the Year at Kumbum Monastery falls on the 15Th of the 1st (Lunar) Month, when it is the Festival of Butter Lamps is held. This practice, highpoint of the Monlam Festival, was halted during the years of the Cultural Revolution and the ongoing but badly progressing 'peaceful liberation of Tibet'.
This page was last updated on: July 10, 2017
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Gyalwa Tenzin Gyatso or H.H. the 14Th Dalai Lama and is widely respected and revered by Tibetans and others around the World. The Tibetan Government in Exile, until April 2011 led by the 14Th Dalai Lama, is located in Dharamsala, North India. However, since the Dalai Lama has retreated from politics (as much as he can) and has handed political power and policy issues to the Tibetan Government in Exile. The Dalai himself only deals with religious affairs and the defense of the cause of the Tibetan Peoples. By many Tibetans inside Tibet, as well as in north India, he is regarded as their number one spiritual leader. In addition his person remains the focus of Tibetan Nationalist sentiments and a hope of a realease from the dominance of neighboring China and it's rigid Communist Party regime.
Thus, although the Dalai Lama has moved on long since, pilgrims who would like to follow the life-path of this acclaimed Holy Man can visit Kumbum Monastery and combine it with a visit to the birthplace of the banished 14Th Dalai Lama. They do so in an overwhelming number, followed by Chinese Tourists eager to have the colorful Tibetan Ethnic experience.
His Holiness the 114Th Dalai Lama blessing followers during a ceremony in Dharamsala, India - the home of the Tibetan Refugee Community.
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