Kumbum Monastery (Temple of the Infinite Number of Pictures of the Buddha) Ta'er Si
In the Lusha'er district, 25km/15.5mi southwest of Xining, lies Kumbum Monastery, built in 1560-77 and covering a total area of 40ha/100acres. It is also known as the Temple of the Infinite Number of Pictures of the Buddha (Ta'er Si). It is one of the six largest Lamaist temple complexes in China. In the course of various restorations over the centuries Chinese features have been incorporated in the original Tibetan architecture. The latest restoration work was done in 1979. The whole is a giant complex of religious buildings including pagodas, palaces, temples, loggias and monastic cells. A 14m/46ft high stupa stands at the monastery entrance.On the monastery forecourt can be seen eight round chortens (Ruyi Dagoba) - the Tibetan form of a stupa, or Buddhist shrine, decorated with high-reliefs; they represent the eight basic phases in the life of Shakyamuni - such as Birth, Victory over the Demons, Nirvana, etc.
Great Hall of the Gold Roof
The Great Hall of the Gold Roof (Dajinwa Si), the monastery's principal building, is three stories and in the Chinese style. The undulating roof is covered in tiles of gilded bronze. A 11m/36ft tall silver stupa stands in the inner courtyard; it is dedicated to Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), the reformer and founder of the Yellow Cap School (Gelupka). According to legend, he was born here and on the spot where his mother's blood dripped as she was giving birth to him a sandalwood tree grew, on which could be seen large numbers of pictures of deities and of Tibetan alphabet characters. The mother built the stupa here at the request of her son, who went to live in Tibet. There is a statue of Tsongkhapa in a niche high up in the stupa. Inside, so legend has it, are kept his mother's placenta and some of his personal belongings, and so it is revered by Lamaists as their holy shrine.
Small Hall of the Golden Roof
The Small Hall of the Golden Roof (Xiaojiwna Si) (1631) is known for its statues and portraits of Buddhist tutelary gods and for its collection of stuffed animals, including a horse which belonged to the 9th Panchen Lama (1883-1937).
Hall of the Great Sutra
Originally built in 1606 and later extended, the Hall of the Great Sutra (Dajing Tang) was destroyed by fire in 1913 but rebuilt in 1917.It is here that the lamas assemble to read the scriptures together or to receive religious instruction. The Hall measures 1981sq.m/21,315sq.ft and will hold up to 2000 people. The flat roof of this typically Tibetan edifice rests on 108 square columns encased in priceless tapestries displaying dragon motifs and is decorated with a wheel, the symbol of Buddhist teaching, and with statues of a gazelle and a deer.The interior is adorned with rolled-up pictures (thangkas), including some appliqué work - a specialty of the monastery. Visitors can also see some typical examples of local crafts - figures carved in butter, painted textiles and relief embroidery.