Four Ling of Lhasa, 四大林（gling-chen-bzhi), serves as the residence of the four living Buddhas of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism, essentially the private Labrang of these living Buddhas (bla-brang, meaning residence). Since the mid-16th century AD, Tibet began constructing residences for living Buddhas. By the 18th and 19th centuries, the reincarnation system of Living Buddhas had gained prominence, resulting in numerous living Buddhas of varying significance in Tibet. Among these, the large-scale settlements included Tengye Ling, Kunde Ling, Shide Ling, and Tsemon Ling.
Four Ling stands as more than just a collection of large-scale buildings with distinctive characteristics; it epitomizes the architectural artistry of its era. Its deep ties to numerous historical events imbue it with extraordinary significance. Following the death of the seventh Dalai Lama in 1757, and prior to the identification of his reincarnated soul and the new Dalai Lama’s assumption of duties, a living Buddha from one of the major Lings often assumed the Regent’s role (Gyaltsab and Sikyong). This position, known as “In charge of business affairs” or “acting for the Dalai Lama,” meant that the regent Living Buddha was often referred to as “Gyaltrul.”
⑴ Tengye Ling: The Residence of Dimu Living Buddha
Tengye Ling (bstan-rgyas-gling) serves as the abode of the Dimu Living Buddha, located southwest of Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. In AD 1747, during the twelfth year of Emperor Qianlong’s reign in the Qing Dynasty, Ngawang Jambai Diere Gyatso, the sixth generation of the Dimu Living Buddha lineage (ngag-dbang-vjam-dpal-bde-legs-rgya-mtsho), spearheaded the construction of this impressive structure. Emperor Qianlong honoured the establishment with the plaque “Guangfa Temple”. After the seventh Dalai Lama passed away, Ngawang Jambai Diere Gyatso took on a temporary role, overseeing both monastic and secular matters. This arrangement remained in place until a new tradition was established.
The main building of Tengye Ling is a three-story structure facing south, covering an area of 1270 square meters (46 meters wide and 27 meters deep).
The ground floor is divided into two sections, east and west:
- The eastern section encompasses a sutra hall, a lacan (a specific type of teaching or debate hall in Tibetan Buddhism), and a gatehouse. The front sutra hall alone spans 240 square meters and showcases a late architectural style typical of Lacanian buildings.
- The western section comprises another sutra hall and a storage area. This sutra hall covers an area of 250 square meters, with the warehouse situated at the rear.
The Dharma Protector Temple, located on the top floor of Tengye Ling, spans 10.1 meters in width and 15 meters in depth. This area comprises a sutra hall at the front and a Buddhist hall at the back, connected by a lattice screen-style middle door. Intricate murals adorn the walls of the Lakang, enhancing the temple’s spiritual and artistic atmosphere.
Tour Tips: Experience Authentic Tibetan Tea at Gamchung Teahouse
Situated in the bustling heart of Lhasa, the Gamchung Teahouse, located on Tengye Ling Road, is a renowned spot among locals and tourists alike. This teahouse stands out for its expansive area, offering ample space for a large number of visitors.
Kunde Ling Temple: A Blend of Spirituality and History
The Kunde Ling Temple: (kun- bde-gling)
Kunde Ling Temple is the residence of Jidong Hutuktu and is locally referred to as “Dan Xue Qu Kelin.” Emperor Qianlong bestowed the name “Weizang Yong’an Temple” on it. This significant religious site is located at the foot of Parmari Mountain, southwest of the Potala Palace in Lhasa. In AD 1794, during the 59th year of Emperor Qianlong’s reign, the eighth Jilong Hutuktu Yesi Lobsang Tenpai Gonpo (ye-shes-blo-bzang-bstan-pavi-mgon-po) supervised its construction when he served as a regent.
Architectural Grandeur of Kunde Ling Temple
The main building of Kunde Ling Temple, rising to four stories, features stone walls and a roof decorated with gilded vases, streamers, and banners. In the heart of the main building is the Sutra Hall, leading to a Buddhist hall that houses the statue of Tsongkhapa. Yichu halls, containing statues of protectors, flank this hall. Following the death of the eighth Living Buddha, Yeshi Lobsang Tenpai Gonpo, workers transformed the Buddhist Hall into the Spiritual Pagoda Hall. This hall now honors three spiritual pagodas. Artisans wrapped the pagoda of the eighth Living Buddha in pure gold and adorned it with many treasures, while the ninth and tenth Living Buddhas’ pagodas feature silver cladding, pure gold Buddhist niches, and treasures.
Cultural Significance and Artifacts
In the Sutra Hall, the throne of the eighth Jilong Tenpai Gonpo is prominent, also featuring the gilded bronze statues of Tsongkhapa and his disciples and life-size silver statues of Tsongkhapa. The top-floor bedroom displays plaques and treasures granted by the Qing Dynasty emperors, adding to the temple’s historical value. A stele pavilion, covered with glazed tiles and standing about 3.4 meters high, is built in front of the temple. It narrates the story of expelling the Gurkha invasion and the construction of Kunde Ling Temple in both Chinese and Tibetan inscriptions.
Political and Religious Influence of Kunde Ling Temple
Kunde Ling Temple has been influential both religiously and politically in Tibet since its sixth incarnation. It enjoys a prestigious status within the religious community and holds significant political clout.
Tour Tips: Visiting the Modern Kunde Ling Community
The current Kunde Ling has evolved into a residential community characterized by beautiful, modern Tibetan-style buildings. With lanes that wind in various directions, it offers a tranquil and safe environment for many citizens of Lhasa. Visitors can experience a blend of historic spirituality and contemporary Tibetan lifestyle in this unique community.
⑶ Shide Ling: A Revered Residence of Rezhen Hutuktu
Shide Ling (zui-bde-gling): The Spiritual Abode of Reting Hutuktu
Shide Ling, also known as “Side Temple” and “Huzheng Temple,” stands as the residence of Rezhen Hutuktu. Located just 500 meters southwest of Ramoche Temple in Lhasa, this temple covers an area of 6533 square meters. Its origins trace back to the period of Tubo Trizug Detsan (khri-gtsug-lde-brtsan, 815—836 reigned). Initially, the temple was smaller, consisting of only 4 rooms named Zhaba, from which the temple’s name “Xide” was derived.
Architectural Features and Historical Significance of Shide Ling
Shide Ling, traditionally associated with Aqi Hutuktu (Rezhen Living Buddha, rwa-sgren-ho-thog-thu), serves as his established place in Xi. The temple complex houses key structures such as the sutra hall, Buddhist hall, monks’ living quarters, and monks’ kitchen. The sutra hall, 9 meters wide and 7 meters deep, stands on 48 columns. Behind it, three Buddhist halls feature a collective 12 pillars. Over a hundred rooms constitute the monks’ residence, a Tibetan-style, flat-roofed two-story building. This expansive layout marks Shide Ling as one of the four famous forests in Lhasa, underscoring its religious and architectural importance.
Shide Ling not only serves as a religious site but also stands as a beacon of Tibetan Buddhism’s rich history and culture, making it a significant destination for both pilgrims and tourists in Lhasa.
Tsemon Ling Temple: A Beacon of Tibetan Buddhism in Lhasa
Overview of Tsemon Ling (tshe-smon-gling)
Located to the west of Ramoche Temple in Lhasa, Tsemon Ling serves as the stationed place of the Tshe-smon Living Buddha (tshe-smon-gling-sprul-sku). The temple complex faces north to south, encompassing an area of 6240 square meters, and features a square courtyard layout.
Architectural Splendor and Historical Significance
The main building of Tsemon Ling was constructed in two distinct phases:
- The Eastern Half – The White House: Established under the leadership of the 1st Cemo Living Buddha in 1777, this section covers an area of 800 square meters. The sutra hall within the White House is notably spacious, measuring 13.4 meters in depth, 11 meters in width, and supported by 20 pillars. The Buddhist hall at the back houses several clay sculptures of protector gods.
- The Western Half – The Red Palace: Constructed under the guidance of the Second Living Buddha Cemo, this part is larger and features intricate carvings and rich colors. The sutra hall in the Red Palace is 13.8 meters deep and 15 meters wide, adorned with religious murals on all four walls. It contains silver-plated statues of Green Tara, bronze statues of Maitreya and Tsongkhapa, and gold pagodas of the third and fourth living Buddhas. The Dharma Protector Temple at the back of the sutra hall includes statues of Tewu Dharma Protector and the Second Cemo Living Buddha in the east temple, along with the Eight Medicine Kings in the Medicine King Hall.
Artistic and Religious Treasures
The second floor of the Dharma Protector Temple in the White House primarily houses a clay statue of the horse-headed Vajra, alongside other Dharma Protector statues and several silk thangkas. The top floor accommodates the living Buddha’s bedroom, adding a personal touch to the temple’s spiritual ambience.
Tsemon Ling Temple stands as a testament to the rich traditions and architectural brilliance of Tibetan Buddhism. Its blend of historical significance and religious artistry makes it an essential visit for those exploring the spiritual heritage of Lhasa.