Songzanlin Monastery

Just outside of Shangri-La lies the Songzanlin Tibetan Monastery. It is a beautiful complex built initially in 1697 at the direction of the fifth Dalai Lama. At its most prominent point in the 1980’s, it had a population of 270 monks. It still has a small active monk population that we got to see in a group meditation chant. There are thousands of Buddhist statues in all different forms and sizes representing different attributes of the Buddha. The walls, ceilings, and every surface are covered with paintings or cloth depicting Buddhist stories. It is truly remarkable. At the same time, the Chinese government has turned it into a tourist attraction with entrance fees so that takes some of the mysticism out of it.

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