Shannan is one of the ideal destinations for Tibetan Buddhist retreats. It is the birthplace of Tibetan culture, where the legend is that the god monkey and the Rakshasi combined to give birth to Tibetans. The Shannan area is located in the middle valley of the Yarlung Zangbo River. There're magnificent mountains and rivers, mysterious sacred lakes, picturesque virgin forests, vast grasslands, majestic and steep Yarlung Zangbo waterfalls, as well as time-honored cultural relics and ancient books. There is no severe cold in winter and no scorching heat in summer. The weather is pleasant in all seasons and is very suitable for meditation.
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Samye Monastery is located at the foot of Mount Harbu on the north bank of the Yarlung Zangbo River. It was built in the 8th century AD during the Tubo dynasty and was the first monastery in Tibet where laymen were ordained as a monk.
The whole monastery was built like a mandala in the Buddhist Tantra. The Utse Hall is like Mount Sumeru, the center of the universe. The four temples around the main hall seem to symbolize the four continents, the four pagodas symbolize the four heavenly kings guarding the four continents, and there are a total of 1,028 small pagodas on the surrounding wall of Samye Monastery. This is also very special, symbolizing the Cakravāda-parvata around the world.
If you overlooked the whole view of Samye Temple from nearby mountains, you can see its beautiful structural layout, just like a three-dimensional mandala. This beautiful mandala standing in the real world allows people to understand the strict order of the Tibetan Buddhist worldview.
Chim-puk Valley is located on the side of Hapori Mountain, 15 miles northeast of Samye Monastery, with an average elevation of 4,300 meters. It is surrounded by mountains on three sides. The open area on the south side of the valley is directly opposite the broad Yarlung Zangbo Valley and the view is very impressive.
Because Chim-puk Valley is deep in the mountains and the streams are gurgling with dense vegetation, there's no severe cold in winter and no scorching heat in summer but mild climate throughout the year. This is probably the reason why many eminent monks and laymen have regarded this place as a sacred place for self-cultivation and enlightenment throughout the ages. The eminent monks such as Śāntarakṣita and Padmasambhava practiced here successively, leaving many sacred sites.
Tibetans believe Chim-puk is an important place. They think that only visiting Samye Monastery without going to Chim-puk is as if they have never been to Samye Monastery.