Shalu MonasteryPart of a series on
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Shalu Monastery (Tibetan: ཞྭ་ལུ།; Wylie: Zhwa-lu; ZWPY: Xalu) is small monastery 22km south of Shigatse in Tibet. Founded in 1040 by Chetsun Sherab Jungnay, for centuries it was renowned as a centre of scholarly learning and psychic training and its mural paintings were considered to be the most ancient and beautiful in Tibet. Shalu was the first of the major monasteries to be built by noble families of the Tsang Dynasty during Tibet's great revival of Buddhism, and was an important center of the Sakya tradition.
In 1329 a devastating earthquake demolished the temple of Shalu but was later rebuilt in 1333 by local lords under the command of the Mongol Emperor of China. The new architectural framework of the monastery was dominated by Mongolian styles with massive inward-sloping walls around a main courtyard and strong woodwork and glazed roof tiles from Qinghai. At the time of the new establishment in the 1330s Shalu Temple was under the command of the 11th Abbot Buton Rinchen Drub who lived 1290-1364. Buton was not merely a capable administrator but he is still remembered to this very day as a prodigious scholar and writer and is Tibet's most celebrated historian. Buston catalogued all of the Buddhist scriptures at Shalah, some 4,569 religious and philosophical works and formatted them in a logical, coherent order. He wrote the famous book the History of Buddhism in India and Tibet at Shalu which many Tibetan scholars utilize into their study today.Buddhist scripture was catalogued in its entirety at Shalu Monastery
Buton's activity inevitably attracted a great deal of attention to the monastery and brought in other Buddhist interllectuals around Tibet and India to study in the grounds amounting to some 3000 by 1360. After his death the monastery became an important epicentre of esoteric studies and psychic training for centuries. The avowed purpose of lamas who cultivated paranormal abilities were not to become magicians or miracle workers but to attain philosophical enlightenment, a belief that all earthly phenonoma are a state of the mind. Shalu Temple became known throughout the far east for its dedication to these philosophies and its enlightenment of the Buddhist faith.
However by the 1800s the monastery had become less influential and Tibetan scholars chose to study at the Samye monastery which had grown to be one of the most politically powerful in the Tibetan lands by this time. The monastery fell into ruin and little of the original 1330 structure remains, although the outer wall and the main building with damaged roofs still stands, and a number of 14th century murals on the outer walls of the temple still follow an iconographic scheme developed by the great Buton himself. One of the murals is an allegory in which an elephant representing a human soul evolves through many steps and earthly trials to Nirvana becoming progressively white and purer in the cleansing process. Precise rules are still imbedded into the walls on what the monks should wear, place their robes and how to behave in the central courtyard Deyangshar. Remnants of former mandala murals are concealed by over 100 Thanka most of which were emboidered in Hangzou in eastern China in the 1920s. Only two chapels of the Shalu temple are open to tourists although funds were allocated in 1995 for roof repair and the eventual restoration of the fine 14th century structure by 2005.
Inside Shalu MonasteryA young monk at Shalu
Shalu Lakhang temple is in the centre of the monastery. On the ground floor, in the Tshomchen, Sakyamuni and his disciples are enshrined. The chapels flanking it house the Tanjur and the Kanjur books respectively. Chapels on the roof floor are typical Chinese blue tiled structures, housing Sakyamuni, Buton, and Arhats Buddhas. Massive delicate and old murals cover the walls of the monastery, mostly depicting stories from the life of the Buddha. Restoration and preservation are badly needed to protect those arts.
Shalu has four treasures which are of notable value. One is a sutra board, which is 700 years old and cannot be reassembled once broken apart, a piece of sutra printed against the board is regarded as good luck. Another is a brass urn, which is usually covered with a piece of red cloth and sealed; the holy water may clean 108 filths and is changed every 12 years. Another is a stone basin, which was the washbasin of the builder Chetsun Sherab Jungnay dating back to 1040; and another is a stone tablet, which was uncovered in the first construction of Shalu. The tablet displays a mantra which reads "om mani Padme Hum" and has four dagoba carved into it.
- Vitali, Roberto. 1990. Early Temples of Central Tibet. Serindia Publications. London. ISBN 0-906026-25-3. Chapter Four: "Shalu Serkhang and the Newar Style of the Yüan Court." Pages 89-122.