Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism, also called 'Lamaism', started in the middle of 7th century. At that time, King Songtsen Gampo married Nepalese Princess Chizun and Princess Wencheng from Chang'an (currently Xian). Influenced by these two Buddhist princesses, he coverted to Buddhism and built Jokhang Temple and Ramoche Monastery (Xiao Zhao Si). In the middle of 8th century, Buddhism was introduced to Tibet via India. Tibetan Buddhism was totally formed in the late 10th century. After centuries of development in Tibet, a unique combination of religion and politics with Tibetan Buddhism evolved.

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Major Sects of Tibetan Buddhism

Present Tibetan Buddhism can be divided into four sects: Nyingmapa, Kagyupa, Gelugpa, and Sakyapa.

Nyingmapa means 'old' in Tibetan. Nyingmapa is the oldest sect in Tibetan Buddhism. It is also called 'Red sect' because monks in this sect always wear red monk hats. The Kagyupa sect was created in the middle of 11th century, and it is famous for having the most branches in Tibetan Buddhism. It is called 'white sect' because monks belonging to this sect wear white robes and their temples are painted white. In 14th century, Tsong Khapa created Gelugpa sect. This sect encourages monks to live an austere and unselfish life. Monks of this sect wear yellow hats, so it is called 'yellow sect'. In Tibetan, sakyapa means 'colorful'. Temples of the Sakyapa sect are painted in red, white and black stripes, symbolizing Manjusri Bodhisattva, Avalokitesvara and Vajradhara, so it is called the 'colorful sect'.

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There are many Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in China, which are worth visiting to experience authentic Tibetan Buddhist culture. Famous Tibetan Buddhist monasteries include: Drepung Monastery, Ganden Monastery, Labrang Monastery, Sakya Monastery, Sera Monastery, Ta'er Monastery and Tashilhunpo Monastery.

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