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  Tashilhungpo Monastery (3)

The 11.55-meter-high pagoda covers 253 square meters, its exterior covered with a layer of gold and inlaid with pearls and precious stones. On the pagoda are 818 bags, which hold 24 different kinds of stones, altogether 6,794 pieces. Strictly in accord with religious rituals, the interior of the pagoda is composed of three storeys. The first storey holds barley, wheat, rice, tea leaves, salt, various kinds of dried fruits and candies, sandalwood, various medical herbs, silk and satin, elaborately carved saddles, pilose antlers, rhinoceros horns, silver, pearls, stones, kasaya and Tibetan costumes. The second storey holds Tripitaka, classical works by the three founders of the Gelug Sect, works by all the Panchen Lamas in history and Buddhist scriptures written with gold powder ink. The top storey has Buddhist scriptures and Buddha statues. On August 30, 1993, the body of the 10th Panchen Lama was moved into the pagoda. The body was first put in a sandalwood bier, which was then put into a specially made safety cabinet and finally moved into the Precious Bottle in the pagoda. At the entrance is a life-size statue of the 10th Panchen Lama. Around the body are a variety of religious articles, such as kasaya, tangka painting scrolls, Buddha statues and scriptures.

Deqen Galsang Phodrang is the summer palace of the Panchen Lama. The summer palace of the Panchen Lama was originally built in Gongjor Lingka; thus, it is also called Gongjor Ling Palace. In 1954, the Nyang Qu River flooded due to snow avalanche and the rare floods destroyed the Gongjor Ling Palace. Because of the concern of the late Premier Zhou Enlai, the state allocated funds to build Deqen Galsang Phodrang, which was called New Palace. Located east of Xigaze city, the palace comprises the living quarters for the Panchen Lama, his office and five sacrificial rooms enshrining more than 100 Buddhist statues. The building complex looks classical and elegant, with verdant trees and lush grass and flowers. The 10th Panchen Lama died there and, four months later, his body was moved to the Tashilhungpo Monastery where he was buried and worshipped.

In August on the Tibetan calendar each year, lamas in the Tashilhungpo Monastery hold the Ximoqenpo Festival the Holy Dance Festival. Originally a religious ritual to drive away evil spirits, it gradually evolved into a traditional festival in Xigaze. According to historical documents, the festival was first sponsored by Dainbai Nyima, the seventh Panchen Lama, about 200 years ago. On August 3 on the Tibetan calendar each year, a dance contest is held among lamas in the monastery, and the festival formally commences on August 4 and lasts three days till August 6, when it is open to the public. The monastery now boasts 39 lamas who can dance 61 different kinds of dances. A huge tent is set up on a platform. On its left are seats for distinguished guests; on its right is the orchestra of the monastery; and in front of the platform is the audience who have traveled far to attend. The whole activity is imbued with a strong religious fervor and follows a strict protocol. The dance is simple in rhythm and slow in execution. To enliven the atmosphere, some short, light pieces are performed between the dances, which always make the audience rock with laughter. During the three-day festival, dozens of holy dances will be performed, such as Buddha's Warrior Attendant Dance, Skeleton Dance, Deer and Cow Dance, Bhiksu Dance and Six Longevity Dance.

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