Overview of Chudeng Nima Monastery
Chorten Nyima Monastery, also known simply as “Nima Monastery,” is located in Changlong Township, Kampa County, Shigatse City. Situated at the mouth of the Chorten Nyima La mountain pass and backed by the majestic Himalayas, the monastery stands at an elevation of 5,100 meters. As per Tibetan scriptures, it is believed that in the mid-8th century, the Indian saint Padmasambhava (known as Lotus Born) passed through this area while returning from Tibet after spreading Tantric Buddhism at the invitation of the Tibetan King Trisong Detsen.
Here, a shepherd, inspired by Padmasambhava’s teachings, built the Shepherd’s Stupa, the Shepherdess’s Stupa, and the Sea King’s Stupa, collectively known as “Dorje Chorten Nyima” (meaning “Vajra Sun Stupa”). Over time, the site came to be popularly referred to as “Chudeng Nima.”
Chorten Nyima Historical Significance
Chorten Nyima Monastery, established during the Tubo period, has a history spanning over 1,300 years. It is a follower of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. Like many religious sites, it suffered destruction during the Cultural Revolution but was rebuilt after 1980. The monastery, with its typical Tibetan architectural style, faces north with a length of 46 meters and a width of 30 meters, covering an area of 1,380 square meters.
Architectural Layout of Chorten Nyima
Entering the monastery grounds, visitors find themselves in a courtyard, with guest rooms located on the east side and the main hall and monks’ quarters at the southwest corner. The courtyard’s entrance faces north, and to the west of the entrance is a two-story scripture hall and Buddha hall.
A porch supported by two pillars fronts the scripture hall. Inside, four pillars support the hall, which measures 7.5 meters in length and 4.5 meters in width, totalling 33.75 square meters. One of the monastery’s most revered treasures is a blue stone, housed in the scripture hall. This stone bears the footprints of the 18th-century high lama Guru Rinpoche when he was eight years old. A special nun ceremony involves tapping this stone on the heads, shoulders, and backs of worshippers, symbolizing the bestowal of sacred blessings.
Chorten Nyima Monastery stands as a beacon of spiritual significance and historical richness, offering a unique glimpse into the ancient traditions and cultural heritage of Tibetan Buddhism. Visitors should note that these travel tips and transportation details are essential for planning a smooth and enjoyable trip to Kampa County, ensuring a hassle-free experience in exploring this unique and culturally rich region of Tibet.
Chorten Nyima Monastery: Buddha Hall and Sacred Spaces
Adjacent to the scripture hall in the northwest is the Buddha Hall, approximately 20 square meters in size and supported by two pillars. The hall features a podium measuring 2.5 meters long, 1.2 meters wide, and 1 meter high. On this podium, there’s a shrine housing clay sculptures of Padmasambhava and his two consorts. On the south side of the courtyard are two Dharmapala (protector deity) temples, each 6 meters long, 4 meters wide, and covering an area of 24 square meters. Between these temples and the scripture hall stands a Lama stupa, about 3 meters tall.
The monks’ quarters are located on the eastern side of the courtyard. In the southwest corner of the west temple, there’s a meditation cave sunk into the ground, covering 1.5 square meters. A carved Buddha statue adorns the cave wall. As explained by Sherab Dolma, a nun, this cave has been used for spiritual practice by successive monastery leaders. Despite its cool, dark, and damp interior with a stone bed on the side, the belief holds that putting one’s head into this cave and making a wish can fulfill that wish.
Precious Artifacts and Influence of Chorten Nyima
The monastery is home to valuable cultural relics such as the “Eight Immortals Bone Carvings,” “Wooden Vajra Pestles,” and fragments of a “Wooden Halo.” These items are of immense historical and artistic value. Being a monastery where both monks and nuns practice together and with numerous mystical legends, Chorten Nyima has considerable influence among followers in Tibet, as well as neighbouring Sikkim and Nepal, making it a highly revered site.
Notable Attractions in Chorten Nyima
Iron-Crutch Li Bone Carving: This Qing Dynasty artefact, measuring 26 cm in length and 12 cm in height, depicts Iron-Crutch Li sitting on a lotus leaf with a thick beard, bare chest, and a rosary. The carving displays him in a relaxed posture with one bare foot and the other in a grass shoe, a wine gourd positioned in front of him, showcasing exquisite detail.
Vajra Pestle Wood Carving: Standing at 45 cm tall, this triangular sculpture features the fierce faces of Vajras (diamond beings) on each side. The lower part transitions from a triangular to an arrowhead shape, showcasing fine craftsmanship.
Halo Fragment Wood Carving: This piece, 120 cm tall and 25 cm wide, is a fragment of a halo from a Buddha statue. The intricate “S” shaped honeysuckle patterns, flanked by beaded designs and outer flame motifs, highlight its artistic excellence.
Measure Sin Cave: A natural stone cave known as the “Measure Sin Cave” lies on the path from Chudeng Nima Monastery towards the snow mountains. Spanning about 2 meters, the cave reportedly allows those with minor or no sins to crawl out easily from this low, narrow space, while those with greater sins struggle to exit.
Soil Forest: Stretching about 1.2 kilometers to the west of Chudeng Nima Monastery, the Soil Forest presents a unique erosion landscape. Its rugged, magnificent terrain boasts high aesthetic, scientific, and historical value.
Visitor Tips: Chorten Nyima
Admission: There is no entrance fee, and visitors are welcome to explore freely. The monastery’s nuns, currently six in number, are renowned for their kindness.
Getting There: Chorten Nyima Monastery is approximately 40 km from Kampa County Town. Visitors can hire a car or drive themselves from the town to the monastery.