Jump to content

Rongbuk Monastery

Coordinates: 28°11′47″N 86°49′40″E / 28.19639°N 86.82778°E / 28.19639; 86.82778
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Rongbuk Monastery
Tibetan transcription(s)
Tibetan: རྫ་རོང་ཕུ་དགོན་
Wylie transliteration: rdza rong phu dgon
Mount Everest as seen from the Rongbuk Monastery
AffiliationTibetan Buddhism
LocationBasum Township
Rongbuk Monastery is located in Tibet
Rongbuk Monastery
Location within Tibet Autonomous Region
Geographic coordinates28°11′47″N 86°49′40″E / 28.19639°N 86.82778°E / 28.19639; 86.82778
FounderNgawang Tenzin Norbu
Date established1902

Rongbuk Monastery (Tibetan: རྫ་རོང་ཕུ་དགོན་, Wylie: rdza rong phu dgon; other spellings include Rongpu, Rongphu, Rongphuk and Rong sbug (simplified Chinese: 绒布寺; traditional Chinese: 絨布寺; pinyin: Róngbù Sì)), also known as Dzarongpu[1] or Dzarong[citation needed], is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery of the Nyingma sect in Basum Township,[2] Dingri County, in Shigatse Prefecture of Tibet.


Rongbuk Monastery lies near the base of the north side of Mount Everest at 5,009 metres (16,434 ft) above sea level, at the end of the Dzakar Chu valley.[3][4] Rongbuk is claimed to be the highest-elevation monastery in the world.[5] However, the true highest monastery in the world is Drirapuk Monastery in Ngari Prefecture, at an altitude of 5,072 metres (16,640 ft).[6] For Sherpas living on the south slopes of Everest in the Khumbu region of Nepal, Rongbuk Monastery was an important pilgrimage site, accessed in a few days' travel across the Himalaya through the Nangpa La.[7] The monastery was also regularly visited by the early expeditions to Mount Everest in the 1920s and 1930s after a five-week journey from Darjeeling in the Indian foothills of the Himalaya. Most past and current expeditions attempting to summit Mount Everest from the north, Tibetan, side establish their Base Camp near the tongue of Rongbuk Glacier about 8 km (5 mi) south of the Monastery.

Today, the monastery is accessible by road after a two- to three-hour drive from the Friendship Highway from either Shelkar (New Tingri) or Old Tingri. From Rongbuk Monastery, there are dramatic views of the north face of Mount Everest, and one of the first British explorers to see it, John Noel, described it: "Some colossal architect, who built with peaks and valleys, seemed here to have wrought a dramatic prodigy—a hall of grandeur that led to the mountain."[8]


In front of the Monastery, there is a large, round, terraced chorten containing a reliquary.

History, religious and cultural significance[edit]

Rongbuk Monastery was founded in 1902 by the Nyingmapa Lama Ngawang Tenzin Norbu[4] in an area of meditation huts and caves that had been in use by communities of nuns since the 18th century.[9] Hermitage meditation caves dot the cliff walls all around the monastery complex and up and down the valley. Mani stone walls, carved with sacred syllables and prayers, line the paths.

The founding Rongbuk Lama, also known as Zatul Rinpoche, was much respected by the Tibetans. Even though the Rongbuk Lama viewed the early climbers as "heretics," he gave them his protection and supplied them with meat and tea while also praying for their conversion. It was the Rongbuk Lama who gave Namgyal Wangdi the name Ngawang Tenzin Norbu, or Tenzing Norgay, as a young child.[citation needed]

In previous times, the Monastery became very active with Buddhist teachings at certain times of the year. It was, and is, the destination of special Buddhist pilgrimages where annual ceremonies are held for spectators coming from as far away as Nepal and Mongolia. These ceremonies were shared with satellite monasteries across the Himalaya also founded by the Rongbuk Lama. These ceremonies continue to this day, notably at the Sherpa Monastery at Tengboche.[citation needed]

Rongbuk Monastery was completely destroyed by the excesses of China's Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) by 1974, and was left in ruins for several years, as recorded by photo-journalist Galen Rowell in 1981.[10]

The monastery's vast treasury of books and costumes, which had been taken for safekeeping to Tengboche, was lost in a 1989 fire.[citation needed]

Since 1983 renovation work has been carried out and some of the new murals are reportedly excellent. Adjacent to the monastery there is a basic guesthouse and small but cosy restaurant.[11]

According to Michael Palin, it now houses thirty Buddhist monks and thirty nuns,[12] but another source reports that locals say there are only about 20 nuns and 10 monks, although previously there were about 500 monks and nuns living here.[11]

In 2011, Rongbuk Monastery was ranked at the top of CNN's 'Great Places to be a Recluse'.[13]


  1. ^ "Rongphuk Monastery and the Everest Region". www.colorado.edu. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  2. ^ Tibetan in Wylie transliteration: dpa’ gsum; simplified Chinese: 巴松乡; traditional Chinese: 巴松鄉; pinyin: Bāsōng Xiàng
  3. ^ Dorje, Gyurme (1999). Tibet (3rd ed.). Bath, UK: Footprint. ISBN 1-903471-30-3.
  4. ^ a b Chan, Victor (1994). Tibet Handbook: A Pilgrimage Guide. Moon Publications.
  5. ^ Palin, Michael (2004). Himalaya. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 145. ISBN 0-297-84371-0.
  6. ^ "The Highest Monasteries in Tibet – Why Rongbuk is not the Highest Monastery in the World_Destination_China Tibet Online". eng.tibet.cn. Retrieved 2022-01-20.
  7. ^ Tenzing Norgay and James Ramsey Ullman, Man of Everest (1955, also published as Tiger of the Snows)
  8. ^ Noel, J. B. L. (1989) [1927]. Through Tibet to Everest. Hodder & Stoughton. p. 136. ISBN 0-340-49092-6.
  9. ^ Early 18th century according to Victor Chan or the late 18th century according to Gyurme Dorje
  10. ^ "Rongphuk Monastery and the Everest Region". Archived from the original on 2002-11-21. Retrieved 2010-01-11.
  11. ^ a b Mayhew, Bradley and Kohn, Michael. (2005). Tibet, p. 191. Lonely Planet Publications. ISBN 1-74059-523-8.
  12. ^ Palin, Michael (2004). "Himalaya with Michael Palin". Himalaya with Michael Palin (Documentary). Episode 3: Annapurna to Everest. Britain: BBC. Event occurs at 48 minutes 6 seconds. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  13. ^ So, Winnie. "9 great places to be a recluse". CNN.
  14. ^ "Guide to Tibet - Things to do, Places to go and Practicalities". 14 June 2017.

External links[edit]