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Built on a flat-topped granite boulder saide to resemble a tortoise, Pabonka may even predate the Jokhang and Ramoche. King Songtse Gampo built the monastery in the 7th century and he, his wife Princess Wencheng, Tibetan king Trisong Detsen, Guru Rinpoche and Tibet’s 1st seven monks all meditated here at various times.
The 9-storey tower was destroyed in 841 by the anti-Buddhist King Langdharma and rebuilt in the 11th century. The 5th Dalai Lama added an extra floor to the 2-storey building. It suffered damage in the Cultural Revolution and has undergone repairs in recent years.
The 1st building you come across is the Rigsum Gonpo Temple, jam-packed with shrines, whose most famous relic is the blue and gold carved mantra “om mani padme hum” (hail to the jewel in the lotus) that faces the entrance on the far side of the hall. The central shrine contains a 1300-year-old “self-arising” (not man-made) carving depicting Chenresig, Jampelyang and Chana Dorje (Vajraoani) - the Rigsum Gonpo trinity after which the chapel is named. The stone carvings were buried during the Cultural Revolution and only dug up in 1985.
Tips of Pabonka Monastery
Midday can be hot there, so bring enough water.