Journey on the Silk Road: Kumbum Monastery, Xining
A good starting point for a visit to Kumbum Monastery is the city of Xining in Gansu Province. The Kumbum Monastery is located about 26km southwest of Xining and is an important pilgrimage site for believers from the region. The Kumbum Monastery is often called Ta'er Monastery in Chinese.
The Ta'er Monastery - or Kumbum Monastery - is one of the most important Tibetan monasteries outside Tibet. The place where the monastery stands today is considered the birthplace of Tsongkapa (1357-1419), the founder of the Gelugpa school in Tibetan Buddhism. It is said that, when the umbilical cord of Tsonkapa was cut, a drop of blood fell to the ground. At the point where the blood dropped a wonderful sandalwood tree with 100000 leaves is said to have grown. The face of Buddha is said to have been on each leaf and another portrait of Buddha adorned the trunk, which is now kept in one of the stupas. In 1379 the mother of Tsongkapa built a shrine around the tree, which still stands today.
The actual Kumbum Monastery was built during the Ming Dynasty in 1583 by the third Dalai Lhama. The Kumbum Monastery is also known for its unique, fine mural paintings and the artistically crafted flowers and lamps made of yak butter. Every year on the 15th day of the first month in the Tibetan calendar, the Lamp Festival takes place, where the "butter works of art" can be admired, some of which have been produced over months.
The name Kumbum means "100000 enlightened bodies of Buddha" and refers to the sandalwood tree which grew here. In 1603 the 4th Dalai Lama stopped at Kumbum Monastery on his way from his birthplace in Mongolia to Central Tibet. Today the monastery is home to about 400 monks who are dedicated to the study of Buddhist teachings.