The Palchoi Monastery (Palkhor Tschode) is in Gyantse, on the road that connects Kathmandu, Nepal, to Lhasa, Tibet.
The monastery includes the breath-taking Kumbum, one of Tibet’s most interesting monuments, a collection of Buddhist chapels on several levels, its name in the Tibetan language meaning ‘the one hundred thousand sacred images’. Kumbum was founded in 1418 and it has 108 chapels distributed on 4 floors.
Tibetan Buddhism, which came in the 5th century from India in its purest form, is surprisingly different, in culture and faith, from Buddhism outside of Tibet. The doctrine of the spiritual leaders Dalai Lama who are reincarnations of the Buddha is specific of Tibetan buddhism (lamaism). Tibet has been ruled by a Dalai Lama for over 350 years, from 1600 to 1959. Also, Tibetan buddhism includes elements of the old shamanic religion Bon (or Bo), a primitive faith born in Tibet, which still survives here as an independent religion. Consequently, Tibetan buddhism is filled with elements that have to do with the world of the dead. The famous “Tibetan Book of the Dead” is considered shamanic in structure.
Probably the most religious people in the world, Tibetans pray daily, spinning their mani-chorlo - the hand prayer wheels, making yak butter offerings to the Buddha, prostrating themselves sometimes all day long in buddhist temples, or surrounding them, always clockwise. Filled with superstition and tabus, their existence is governed by talismans and religious symbols, aimed at purification, chasing away evil spirits and attaining a superior reincarnation.