An Analysis of the Monastery’s Changing Architecture and Symbolism from the Tibetan Plateau to Hebei and the West
Ben Guggenheim | December 22, 2020 | PDF
Tibetan Buddhism is a rich tradition that has continually contributed to the religious, cultural, and political landscape of Inner and East Asia since its being institutionalized more than 1,200 years ago. In recent decades, Tibetan Buddhism has become a familiar, though maybe not accessible, concept to the international hosts of the more than 100,000 Tibetans who live in exile.
The monastery has served an important role in Tibetan Buddhism, not only as the permanent residence of the sangha — the community of ordained clergy men and women — but also as a place for education and commerce and as symbol of faith and power. In many cases, a monastery’s various functions may be reflected in its physical appearance, whether that be location, architecture, or art.
This essay is an analysis of the physical manifestation and symbolism of Samye Monastery (779 AD), as well as that of the two structures deliberately built in its image, Puning Temple (1755 AD) and Odiyan Retreat Center (1975 AD). An application of the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist doctrine and historical conditions will be of utmost significance to determining the motivations and influences for constructing these three impressive displays of Tibetan-Buddhist architecture.