Tsechen Monastery and Dzong

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Tsechen Monastery
Tibetan transcription(s)
Tibetan བརྩེ་ཆེན་ཆོས་སྡེ
Chinese transcription(s)
Simplified 紫金寺
Pinyin zǐjīn sì
Tsechen Monastery and Dzong is located in Tibet
Tsechen Monastery and Dzong
Tsechen Monastery and Dzong
Location within Tibet
Coordinates 28°56′25″N 89°33′26″E / 28.9402°N 89.5572°E / 28.9402; 89.5572
Monastery information
Location Tsang, Tibet, China
Founded by Prince Phakpa Pelzangpo (1318-1370)
Type Tibetan Buddhist
Sect Sakya
Dedicated to Buton Rinchenpa
Head Lama Kunga Lodru (incarnation of Buton Rinchenpa
Number of monks "a handful"

Tsechen Monastery, Tsechen Dzong or Shambu Tsegu, was about five kilometres northwest of Gyantse above the traditional village of the same name. Tsechen was the largest of a number of hilltop monastery-forts ringing the valley, none of which would be easy to assault.[1] The fortress, or dzong, was considered to be almost as strong as the Gyantse Dzong. It was "built on another precipitous hill about 600 feet [183 metres] high, about one mile [1.6 km] long, and rising abruptly out of the plain occupied by at least 1,000 of the enemy who cheered vociferously when they saw us retire."[2]

Early history[edit]

It was founded by Prince Phakpa Pelzangpo (1318-1370 CE), Gyantse's first prince. It was the seat of the kings of Gyantse until the town expanded in the 15th century and Tsongkapa's principal teacher, Remdawa Zhonu Lodro Zhonu (1349–1412), resided here. It was the seat of the incarnation of Buton Rinchendrub, known as Kungra Lodro.[3]

20th Century to present[edit]

On 28 June, Brigadier-General Macdonald, who had just arrived that day, concluded that Tsechen, which guarded the rear of the Gyantse Dzong, would have to be cleared before the assault of Gyantse Dzong could begin. Shortly before sunset, that same day, the nearby "seemingly impregnable" Tsechen Monastery and Dzong was stormed, after a heavy bombardment by the British ten-pound cannon.[4]

"Tsechen was the site of one of the major battles of the Younghusband expedition en route for Lhasa. "A force of 1200 Tibetans held a fortified monastery at Tsechen which guarded the Shigatse road ... The capture of the monastery opened the road to Lhasa and effectively meant that all routes in and out of Gyantse were controlled by the British Tibet expedition."[5]

As the monastery had resisted the British it was considered "fair game" and heavily looted. Then, on 5 July, coinciding with the beginning of the assault on Gyantse Dzong, the monastery was set on fire causing a 'tremendous blaze' which burned throughout the night, to prevent it being reoccupied by the Tibetans.[6]

N. Rybot noted on a drawing he made of the destroyed monastery: "Captured 28 June 04 Looted 29 June 04 Burnt 5 July 04."[7]

There are spectacular views of the valley from the remains of the old walls.[8][9] All that is left today are some of the ruined walls on the hilltop.[10]


  1. ^ Allen (2004), p. 146.
  2. ^ Allen (2004), pp. 186-187.
  3. ^ Dorje (2009), p. 313.
  4. ^ Allen (2004), p. 207.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Allen (2004), p 208-209, 215.
  7. ^ The Heartland of Asia (1975) by Nathalie Ettinger. International Learning Systems, London, p. 148.
  8. ^ Dorje (2009), p. 313.
  9. ^ Mayhew and Kohn (2005), p. 170.
  10. ^ Dorje (2009), p. 313.


External links[edit]