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Riwooe Monastery

Tibetan Buddhists traditionally visit the Jokhang Monastery first and the Chagyima Hall second. In Tibetan Riwoqe means high mountains. When we got to Riwoqe Monastery, we were pleased to see emerald mountains shaded by towering trees. We reached the place at 11 on the morning of June 28. Located some 30 km from the county seat, it originally belonged to the Darlung Gagyu Sect. Legend has it that the Rabxi family lived here, engaged mainly in farming. In 1277, while Rabxi was tilling the land, he met an old monk sitting by the field dyke. He was the son of the 4th Prince of Dharma of the Darlung Monastery, and told Rabxi he intended to have a monastery built here. Rabxi assisted the monk in the construction, and the monk, named Sanggyiwen, served as its first abbot. In 1326, Abbot Wogyain Gongbo had the Chagyima Hall built. As the Chagyima Hall was unique in shape and very elegant, it became the symbol of the Darlung Gagyu Sect. As the monastery and the hall were located in Riwoqe, they were eventually referred to as the Riwoqe Monastery. There have been 23 generations of the abbots. The reincarnation system was introduced for the 12th and later generations. Historically, there are the Living Buddha Gyizong, Pongchow and Xazong systems. Riwoqe was historically one of the largest monasteries in the Kham area. Under it were 58 subordinate monasteries located in Chamdo and other areas inhabited by Tibetans in Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. During its heyday, it had a monk population of 2,500. In the mid-20th century, there were close to 2,000 monks. The Central Government of various dynasties attached high importance to Riwoqe Monastery. During the Yuan Dynasty, when Empress Marka went to worship in the Tibetan area, she visited Riwoqe Monastery and left behind half of her belongings as alms. During the ensuing Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang, the founding emperor appointed 3rd Abbot Gywa Cangyain as "Grand State Tutor". During the Qing Dynasty, abbots of the monastery also received honorific titles from the emperor. The 30-meter high Chagyima Hall has three stories. The first story, rising 13.5 meters, has outer walls painted with three colors in the form of colorful stripes each one-meter apart. Inside the hall are 64 pillars each rising 15 meters, with four reaching the top of the third story. It holds elegantly carved statues of Buddha and tangka painting scrolls. Historically, there were some 40,000 statues of Buddha enshrined here. The second story, rising nine meters, has outer walls painted in red. The inner walls are painted with frescos telling stories of eminent monks of the Gagyu Sect showing the birth and development of the sect. The third story, rising five meters, has outer walls painted in white. Inside the hall are treasures unique to the monastery, including the gold statue of Sakyamuni that Sanggyiwen brought here from Lhasa. Legend has it that it contains relics of the Buddha, including one piece of his bone. Other treasures include dozens of tangka paintings dated back to the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties; sutra books written in gold or silver powder; saddle and sword, which are believed to belong to King Gesar.


 

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