Samye Monastery

Located in the quiet piedmont area of the Shannan Region, the Samye Monastery is the first monastery built in Tibet and the first complete with the three Buddhist jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. With these unique features, this splendid monastery has become an attraction for visitors from near and far.


Samye Monastery was built by the Trisong Detsen (reigned 742-798) of the Tubo Kingdom and was presided over by the Buddhist master Padmasambhava. The Detsen contributed a lot to the project. First, it was said the name (meaning surprise in Tibetan) originated from an exclamation he made. When Samye Monastery was completed, Detsen took part in the foundation ceremony and then ordained seven descendants of blue blood to cultivate in the monastery. They became the first group of monks to live at the monastery and later the so-called 'Seven Enlighten Disciples of Samye'. Since then, Buddhism had become widespread within Tibet and forms a branch of splendid culture. Now, the monastery is listed as one of the cultural relics of national importance under the protection of the state.

Samye Monastery, Tibet
Wuzi Hall of Samye Monastery, Tibet
A Tibetan Buddhist
A Tibetan Buddhist in the monastery
               Samye Monastery Pictures


The whole construction of Samye Monastery is very grandiose and complicated. It replicates the universe described in the sutras exactly. The central world Mount Meru is represented by the majestic Wuzi Hall. The Sun and Moon chapels stand in the north and south as the sun and moon in the universe. Four larger halls and eight smaller halls are distributed around all sides of the central hall, symbolizing the four large continents and eight small ones. In the four corners lie the Red, White, Black and Green Pagodas guarding the Dharma like the Heavenly Kings. A circular wall surrounds the monastery as if marking the periphery of the world. The layout of Samye Monastery resembles the Mandala in the Esoteric Buddhism.
Layout of Samye Monastery
Layout of Samye Monastery
Tibetan mural in the monastery
Tibetan mural in the monastery


Samye Monastery is renowned for the characteristic art of its buildings and the vivid murals as well as other ancient relics stored within them.

The three-story Wuzi Hall is the soul of the whole monastery. Its design is very special. All of the layers follow different styles, the bottom Tibetan, the middle Han and the top Indian. Hence the monastery is also called the 'Three-styled Temple'. There are also many substantial murals here. On the porch of the middle story is inscribed the reputed 'Painted Historical Records' of Tibet, which extend 9.2 m (10 yd) and contains the religious history of Tibet as well as many related legends. Besides these, the murals depicting the 'Historical Records of Samye Monastery' and the 'Biography of Padmasambhava' on the other two levels are also of high aesthetic value.

Samye Monastery, Shannan, Tibet
Wuzi Hall
Buildings in Samye Monastery
Pagoda of Samye Monastery
There are four gates to the Wuzi Hall. The eastern gate leads to the front entrance of the hall. In front of the gate is a nine-story hall, however, only three stories remain standing. On the January 5 and May 16 of the Tibetan Calendar, the large embroidery of Sakyamuni is hung on the wall for people to make homage to, hence the name 'Zhanfo Dian' (Buddha Unfolding Hall). There is also an ancient stele and a bell made during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) along with a pair of stone lions. On the stele Trisong Detsen's edicts for establishing Buddhism as the state religion in 779 are recorded. The bell was the first one made in Tibetan history and is said to memorize the third concubine of the Detsen who led 30 aristocratic women to renounce the world and who later became the first group of nuns in Tibet.

How to get to Samye Monastery

Travel Tips in Sangye Si
A Restaurant in Samye Monastery

The monastery is located at the foot of Mount Haibu Rishen, north of the Yarlung Tsangpo River. You can travel there directly by a regular bus from Lhasa. The buses depart from Jokhang Square before 8 a.m. every day when the passengers are enough, and usually arrive at noon. The ticket is CNY 60.

Travel Tips

For dining and accommodation, the monastery includes a restaurant and guest house. Alternatively there are other restaurants outside the east gate and guest houses in the nearby village. When visiting, bring a flashlight as it is quite dark in the halls.

The mountain top is one of the best places to photograph a panoramic view of the monastery.

Entrance Fee Free
Wuzi Hall: CNY 40

 Free admission from Jan. 1 to Mar. 15 and Oct. 15 to Dec. 31, 2021.
Opening Hours 9:00-16:00
Recommended Time for a Visit 2 - 3h
- Last updated on Apr. 08, 2021 -
Questions & Answers on Samye Monastery
Asked by Jojo from SINGAPORE | May. 01, 2014 07:27Reply
Visiting Tsedang
May I know is the Samye Monastery in Tsedang and is this place open for foreigner to visit.

Answers (1)
Answered by Ben from NEW ZEALAND | May. 07, 2014 02:52

Yes, the monastery exists there and foreign travelers are allowed to have a visit!
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