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Built in the 8th century and located in Samye Town, north bank of the Yarlung Zangbo River, Samye Monastery is notable and time-honored among massive Tibetan cultural relics and historic sites. It is home to heritages related to history, religion, architecture, mural painting, sculpture, etc. during different times dating from Tubo Dynasty in Tibet that successfully shows Tibetan ancient culmination.
It combines architectural styles of Tibetan, Han and Indian. For this reason, it is also called “San Yang Si” (Temple with three styles). Samye Temple is constructed broadly in scale. Upon entering, visitors may feel confused about the layout of towers. However, a survey shows that after understanding meanings a single building represents and roles it plays in the whole temple layout, most visitors will be overwhelmed and convinced by the incomparable architectural complex. The layout of the huge monastery complex forms a giant mandala, a representation for the Buddhist universe, and is modeled after the Indian temple of Odantapuri in Bihar. The complex is surrounded by a strong wall topped by 1008 (1008 is a sacred number) tiny chortens and pierced by gates at the four cardinal points.
The main temple in the center represents Mt. Meru, the mythical mountain at the center of the Buddhist universe. The four continents in the ocean around Mt. Meru are represented by the four lingshi temples at the cardinal points, and each flanked by two smaller temples, symbolizing islands in the ocean.
Samye Temple is also well–known for its abundant mural paintings. What enjoys the greatest reputation is a mural painting of 92 meters in length, called “Shi Chi” (historical records). It describes influence that religion brings to history of Tibet and the far history about the religion. It also shows customs and habits in ancient Tibet.