Introducing Sera Monastery
At the foot of the Wuze Hill in Sera to the north of Lhasa, the Sera Monastery is one of the three great monasteries in Lhasa and one of the six great monasteries of the Gelug Sect of Buddhism in Tibet. Sera Monastery was built by one of disciples of Zonggaba in 1419. On 27th of the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar, Sera Monastery holds the grand Sera Bungchen Festival, which attracts flocks of Buddhists and others.
Sera Monastery Fast Facts
• Chinese Name: Se La Si 色拉寺
• Best Time to Visit: May to October
• Recommended Visiting Hours: About 2 hours
• Things to Do: Photography, Architecture, Tibetan Buddhism
• Opening Hours: 09:00-16:00
• Entrance Fee: CNY 50
• Address: No. 1 Sela Road, Chengguan District, Lhasa, Tibet
What to expect at Sera Monastery
Sera in Tibetan means Wild Rose Garden since opulent wild rose woods once grew around it. A legend said Tsong Khapa and his two disciples once proceeded religious cultivation around. One day, they heard horse whinnying underground when they were taking a walk in the rose woods. A statue of Hynagriva (a horse-headed demon-god) was dug out then. Tsong Khapa started to build the monastery to enshrine Hynagriva. However, the truth is that in 1414, Jamchen Chojey (or Sakya Yeshe), one of Tsong Khapa’s disciples, on behalf of Tsong Khapa, visited Emperor Chengzu, who granted him a title of Dharma King of Great Mercy as well as sutras and a set of sandalwood Arhats. In order to preserve them, Tsong Khapa suggested Jamchen Chojey to build a monastery to house these treasures. Then Sera monastery was set up in 1419.
Sera is famous for its “Buddhism Scriptures Debating”: monks can be seen preparing for monastic exam by staging mock debates in the ritual way. Some sit cross-legged under the trees, while others run from group to group giving vigorous hand-claps to end a statement or make a point. Master and dignitaries sit on the raised tiers when a real exam takes place. Witness these debates that are held as per a set schedule, at 15:30 every day except for Sunday in the ‘Debating Courtyard’ of the monastery.
Among all the festivals in Sera Monastery, the Sera Bengqin Festival is the most impressive one. The festival is held on December 27th in Tibetan calendar (between January and February in Gregorian calendar). On the festival day, a Vajry Pestle, which is a dagger of exorcism, is ceremoniously taken to the Potala Palace and the Dalai Lama offers prayers to the Buddha to bestow strength and blesses the Pestle. Then the Pestle is sent back to Sera Monastery, and the Khenpo (president) of the Ngaba Zhacang place the Pestle on the heads of the monks and disciples which means they are all blessed. The festival attracts many devotees and visitors every year.
How to get to Sera Monastery
• By Bus: take bus No. 6, 16, 20, 22, 23, 24 or L1 to Sera Monastery.
• Rent a car/bus from GGC to enjoy a hassle free private transfer from hotels in Lhasa to Sera Monastery.
Additional travel advice on Sera Monastery
• Sera Monastery is a religious site, so visitors should dress modestly, behave with good manner. Do not talk too loud. Do not smoke inside the temple.
• In the principle of Tibetan culture, walking around temples, palaces and turning praying wheels should follow the clockwise direction.
• Visitors can enjoy the panorama of Lhasa city at the rear mountain of Sera Mountain. As the mountain is high, please plan your tour according to your health condition.
• Sunglasses and sun cream are always needed to protect from the sunburn and strong ultraviolet radiation in the daytime.