Samding Monastery
China Tibet location map
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Samding Monastery
Location within Tibet
Coordinates: 28°58′22″N 90°28′19″E / 28.97278°N 90.47194°E / 28.97278; 90.47194
Monastery information
Location: Tibet, China
Founded by: Khetsün Zhönnu Drub
Founded: 13th century
Type: Tibetan Buddhist
Lineage: Dorje Pakmo

Samding or Samten Ling gompa (bSam-sding dGon-pa or Samding Dorje Pakmo (bSam lding rDo rje phag mo) English: 'The Temple of Soaring Meditation'.[1].

Samding, a Geluk Ani gompa (or nunnery) - which also housed some monks - was built on a hill on a peninsula jutting into the sacred lake, Yar-'brog or Yamdrok Tso, about 10 km east of Nangkatse, and some 112 km (70 miles) southwest of Lhasa, at an altitude of 4,423 m or 14,512 ft.

Samding was the seat of Dorje Pakmo ('The Diamond - or Thunderbolt - Sow'), also known as Sera Kandro, the consort of the wrathful deity Demchok (Heruka), who was the highest female incarnation in Tibet[2], and the third-highest ranking person in the lamaist hierarchy after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama.[3]

The monastery is located on a barren hill about 90 m (300 feet) above the lake (altitude about at the neck of a narrow peninsula jutting out into the water.

"Huge flags of stone are piled in ascending steps up this hill, and a long low wall mounts beside them like a balustrade. At the top of the steps, a narrow pathway conducts to the foot of the monastery, which is circled by a high wall. Samding is finely placed. To the N.E. it fronts the dark and precipitous mountain spurs which radiate from the lofty central peak of the islands. To the S.E. it looks over the land towards the illimitable waters of the weird and mighty Yamdok herself. To the S. it frowns down on the Dumo Ts'o, the inner lake betwixt the connecting necks of land above-mentioned, into which are cst the bodies of the defunct nuns and monks, as food for fishes.
On entering the gates of the monastery, you find yourself in an extensive courtyard, flanked on three sides by the conventional buildings. Part of the fourth side of the parallelogram is occupied by a kind of grand-stand supported on pilasters of wood. Ladders with broad steps, cased in brass, give admission to the first floor of the main building. Here, in a long room, are ranged the tombs of celebrities connected in past times with Samding, including that of the founder, T'inle Ts'omo. The latter tomb is a richly ornamented piece of workmanship, plated with gold and studded with jewels. At the base, on a stone slab is marked the reputed footprint of the saint. In a private, strongly-barred chamber, hard by to which no one may be admitted, are laid the dried mortal remains of all the former incarnations of Dorje P'agmo. Here, in this melancholy apartment, will one day be placed the body of the present lady abbess, after undergoing some embalming process. To the grim charnel-house, it is considered the imperative duty of each incarnate abbess to repair once, while living, to gaze her fill on her predecessors, and to make formal obeisance to their mouldering forms. She must enter once, but only once, during her lifetime.
Another hall in the monastery is the dus-k'aṅ, the walls of which are frescoes illustrative of the career of the original Dorje P'ag-mo. There also have been put up inscriptions recording how the goddess miraculously defended Samding, when, in the year 1716, it was beset by a Mongol warrior, one Yung Gar....
Up in northern Tibet is another sanctuary dedicated to Dorje P'ag-mo. This convent also stands on an islet situated off the west shore of the great lake, about 70 miles N.W. of Lhāsa, the Nam Ts'o Ch'yidmo, and is much akin to Samding, comprising of a few monks and nuns under an abbess. At Markula, in Lahul, is a third shrine of the goddess."[4]

Closer to Lhasa, there is another branch of Samding Monastery on the small island of Yambu in Rombuza Tso or "corpse-worm bottle lake" (which, apparently, received this unusual name because it was used as a burial place for monks).[5]

Samding monastery is said by Waddell and McGovern to belong to one of the red hat sects (Red Hat sect), but Dowman lists it as a "Geluk establishment".[2] Willis claims "it was chiefly affiliated with the rNying-ma sect".[6]

The abbess became famous when she turned herself and her nuns into sows to prevent a Mongol raid on the nunnery in 1716 (McGovern gives 1717 for this event). It was destroyed after 1959 but is in the process of being restored.[2][7]

Unusually, monks as well as nuns both lived in the monastery under the abbess, Dorje Pakmo, although she now lives in Lhasa. Samding gompa was destroyed after 1959 but is in the process of being restored.[2]


  1. To Lhasa in Disguise: A Secret Expedition Through Mysterious Tibet, p. 294. William Montgomery McGovern. Grosset & Dunlap (1924). Reprint: South Asia Books (1983). ISBN 978-8173030017.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 The Power-places of Central Tibet: The Pilgrim's Guide, (1988) p. 268. Keith Dowman. ISBN 0-7102-1370-0.
  3. The Fourteen Dalai lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation, p. 175. Glenn H. Mullin. Clear Light Publishers. Santa Fe, New Mexico. ISBN 1-57416-092-3.
  4. Tibetan Buddhism With its Mystic Cults, Symbolism and Mythology (1895), pp. 275-276. L. Austine Waddell. First published under the title The Buddhism of Tibet, or Lamaism by W. H. Allen & Co., London. Dover reprint (1972), New York.
  5. To Lhasa in Disguise: A Secret Expedition Through Mysterious Tibet, p. 300. William Montgomery McGovern. Grosset & Dunlap (1924). Reprint: South Asia Books (1983). ISBN 978-8173030017.
  6. "Tibetan Ani-s: The Nun's Life in Tibet", p. 20. Janice D. Willis. The Tibet Journal. Vol. IX, No. 4, Winter 1984.Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, Dharamsala, India.
  7. Lhasa and Central Tibet by Sarat Chandra Das (1902), p. 139. Reprint: Mehra Offset Press, Delhi (1988).

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