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Sera Monastery

Located at the foot of Tatipu Hill in the northern suburbs of Lhasa City, the Sera Monastery is one of the three great Gelukpa university monasteries, the others being the Ganden Monastery and the Drepung Monastery. The monastery’s name means ‘wild roses’, in Tibetan because the site where the monastery was built was surrounded by them.

The monastery is dedicated to the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat Sect) of Tibetan Buddhism which was founded by Tsong Khapa. The monastery was built in 1419, during the Ming Dyansty (1368-1644) by Jamchen Chojey, one of Tsong Khapa’s disciples.

The monastery’s architecture is spectacular. The halls are filled with incredible murals, fine statuary, and carvings. It is a breathtaking site with its own unique style.

Coqen Hall
The main hall of the monastery is the Coqen Hall. Built in 1710, the four storey building is supported by 125 pillars and occupies an area of around 2,000 square meters. It consists of five chapels which honor The Buddha, Arhats, Tsong Khapa, and Guanyin. The Guanyin statue has one thousand hands and eleven faces. The hall houses the Gangyur of Tripitaka, the earliest sutras printed by engraving in China.

Zhacang (Buddhist College)
The Zhacang is an area for monks to study the Buddhist Classics. There are three Zhacangs in the Sera Monastery; Me Zhacang, Je Zhacang, and Ngaba Zhacang.

Kamcun (Monk Dormatories)
The monastery has 33 Kamcuns where the monks dine and sleep. Each Kamcun has a central courtyard and have halls to read sutras and an area to drink tea. Monks from the same area are housed together, but each has his own cell.

The Sera Banggin Festival is one of the festivals held in the monastery. It falls on the 27th day of the 12th lunar month. On the day of the festival a Dorje Pestle is taken to the Potala Palace where the Dalai Lama blesses the pestle and offers prayer to The Buddha.
Buddhist Debates
The Galugpa Sect of Buddhism uses debating as part of its education system. The debating traditions at the monastery are unique from the other three famous monasteries in Lhasa. Lamas must participate in debates to further their knowledge and attain higher levels of study. The debates include gestures which makes it unique. A debate which is held every day, weather permitting, lasts about an hour and a half. The debates are done in front of the monks’ teachers and a very strict set of rules are in place for the questioner and defendant. The defender has to prove his point of view on the subject given by the questioner. The defender has to answer within a fixed time period. The gestures each have their own meaning. They include hands striking different parts of the other hand, vocal noises, and body gestures.