Ancient Tholing Monastery Reopens Following Extensive Refurbishment
Far out in the west of Tibet, in the remote badlands of Zanda County of Ngari Prefecture, lies one of Tibet’s oldest standing monasteries. Constructed in 997 AD by the second king of the Guge Kingdom, Yeshe-Ö, Tholing Monastery is the oldest monastery in western Tibet, and was the beginning of a new start for Buddhism in Tibet.
The monastery lies perched on a high escarpment of the Grand Canyon of the Sutlej River, known as the Langchen Tsangpo in Tibet. Just 19 kilometers to the east of Tsaparang, Tholing Monastery has a unique and amazing history.
Refurbishment began on the monastery was 2015, following reports that the sun, rain, and wind erosion has seriously damaged the monastery’s structure over the last 1,018 years. Wind and sun are a powerful combination in western Tibet, where the sun’s damaging UV rays are stronger and where the winds can tear buildings apart in just a few centuries, the Guge Ruins being a prime example.
Built back when Tholing was the capital and center of the Guge Kingdom, many of the novice monks in the first years of the temple were sponsored by the king, Yeshe-Ö. A few years after it was built, the king invited the Indian Buddhist Master, Atiśa, to the monastery, who then spent three years in his successful revival of Buddhism in Tibet.
During his stay, Atisa founded the Kadampa School of Tibetan Buddhism, which resulted in the massive spread of Buddhism to all corners of the land. His disciple was also responsible for the establishment of the Kagyu School, which later became the basis for the Yellow Hat Sect, now known as the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism.
 Yeshe-Ö Temple at Tholing Monastery
Patronized by the Guge kings themselves, Tholing Monastery became a way into Tibet for the Indian scholars that helped to spread Buddhism all the way to Kham and Amdo. 21 young monks from the monastery were sent by Yeshe-Ö to India to learn and bring back scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism, of which only two survived the perilous trip.
Rinchen Zangpo, one of the two monks that returned, went on to become a student of Atisa and was the principle translator of the Sanskrit Buddhist texts during the second wave of Buddhism in Tibet. He is said to have built more than 100 monasteries across Western Tibet.
Tholing Monastery is a key state-level cultural relics site in Ngari and contains a number of precious cultural relics that have been preserved in the monastery since the time of Atisa. There are also a huge number of sculptures and frescoes that date back to the 14th and 15th centuries.

The monks have still been in attendance at the monastery throughout the refurbishment, with various halls, chapels, and accommodations being maintained first for the resident monks. Fire hazard system was also installed during the refurbishment process to safeguard the monastery against fire outbreaks in the future.

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