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Drepung Monastery is known as one of the “Three Greatest Monasteries” in Tibet, together with Sera Monastery and Gandan Monastery. It is also the largest monastery of Gelugpa in Tibetan Buddhism, built in 1416. It was once the residence of Dalai Lamas, from the First Dalai Lama to the Fifth who later moved to Potala Palace in 7th century. Thus it is worthwhile visiting here.
The monastery is located at the foot of the Mountain Gambo Utse in the western suburb of Lhasa. Since the white construction gives the monastery the appearance of a heap of rice from afar, which means “Drepung” in Tibetan, then comes into being the name of Drepung Monastery. Covering an area of 250,000 square meters, the monastery held 7,700 monks in its heyday; now, it houses about 700 monks and attracts pilgrims and visitors from the whole world. You may visit the Coqen Hall with various statues of Buddhists, tratsangs and several courtyards. It also houses lots of cultural relics, like the statues of Manjushri Bodhisattva, Tsong Khapa, Kwan-yin Bodhisattva, rare sutras and flowery murals.
The highlight of Drepung Monastery is the Shoton Festival, which is the traditional Tibetan festival and takes place in August. It begins with the dramatic unfurling of a giant thangka banner of the Buddha, and devotees rush to make offerings before it is rolled up again in less than two hours.