The monastery lies 45 kilometers (28 miles) east of Lhasa. Tsong Khapa, the founder of Gelugpa, established it in 1409. Ganden monastery is the first Gelugpa monastery in Tibet. Its tripa, abbot of the monastery, is actually the Throne Holder of Gelugpa, which is Panchen Lama and Dalai Lama's order. The word "Ganden" means "joy" in Tibetan and is also the name for the "western heavens" where the Maitreya Buddha (the Future Buddha) resides.
The monastery consists of the Main Assembly Hall and Tantric colleges. The hall has 108 pillars and occupies a floor space of 1,600 square meters, capable of holding 3,500 lamas. Left of the huge hall is a small hall, which was the numen chapel of the monastery. The chapel was built in 1416 and the fourth Panchen added a gold roof to it in 1610. Behind the chapel, there is a huge stone which flew here from India according to legend.
Ganden monastery has two Tantric colleges which were both built by Tsong Khapa's disciples. Both the chanting halls of the two can hold 1,500 lamas chanting. Except for the two, there are more than 20 small chanting halls, which belong to different Khangtsens, smaller organizations than colleges. Each of them can house 200 chanting monks. Dormitories and Debating Courtyards are scattered in the monastery. Debating is an essential training method for lamas, and will be held almost every morning.
The monastery has extremely delicate and fine murals and sculptures. The most important and valuable arts left are the paintings of Buddha and Jataka stories drawn by the First Panchen Lama.