Sera Monastery, one of the ‘great three’ Gelukpa university monasteries of Tibet, lies just over a mile (2 kilometers) north of Lhasa. The other two Gelukpa university monasteries are Ganden Monastery and Drepung Monastery.
Built in 1419, the monastery preserves thousands of Buddha statues, many of which were brought to Lhasa from India and inner China in ancient times. The treasures in the monastery contain the image of gilded Chenrezi and the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Taking up nearly 30 acres (115,000 square meters), the monastery is divided into two parts by pathways. The eastern section includes The Tsokchen (Great Assembly Hall) and the Homdong Kangtsang (dwelling place), while the western section has the three colleges of the Sera Je Tratsang, the Sera Me Tratsang, and the Ngkapa Tratsang of Gelug. The Tsokchen in the northeast of the monastery is an administrative center and the assembly hall. As the largest hall, the Tsokchen is composed of squares in front of the hall, scripture hall and five Buddha halls.
The Sera Je Tratsang, the largest one among the three, was built in 1435 and enlarged in the 18th century. It has a statue of the Hayagriva, also known as Chenresig or Avalokiteshwara. The hall of the college depicted frescoes of Buddhas’ achievements and activities. On the wall are suspended Thangkas, paintings on cotton or silk of a Buddhist scene or deity.
Sera Me Tratsang was originally constructed in 1419 and then destroyed by fire. The extant Sera Me Tratsang was built in 1761 with an area of over 1,600 square meters.
The Ngkapa Tratsang, the smallest one, was a three-storied construction built in 1419 by Jetsun Kunkhen Lodroe Rinchen Senge. It has an assembly hall and two chapels in the first floor. The second floor had depictions of Amitayus and eight ‘Medicine Buddha.’
The debates on Buddhists doctrines are most interesting for tourists. The monks learn the Buddhist faith through the debates which are held at 3 pm on every Wednesday and last about two to three hours. The mountain behind the north of the monastery is the site of ‘sky burials’ in Lhasa. You may have a chance to see a sky burial if you climb the mountain in the early morning. But out of respect for Tibetan customs, tourists are prohibited from watching sky burial by Tibet government.
Admission Fee: 55RMB, Free for Tibetan
Open Time: 9:00 to 18:00 (the most halls are closed at 15:00, watch the debates)