Buddhist
Architecture
in the Western
Himalayas
View from the river valley. Auer 2018

the Shey Sumdo Monastery

Coordinates of the site: 29°21’8.81” northern latitude and 82°57’56.07” eastern longitude, at an altitude of 4345 meters.

The Monastery of Shey Sumdo is situated north of the Phoksundo Lake and the Phulbari-La in Upper Dolpo, named after the river valleys that converge here. The place is considered to be the most sacred centre of Dolpo for both the Bon and Buddhist inhabitants. It was founded in the late 17th century by Lama Tenzin Räpa of the Buddhist Kagyü tradition. Shey Monastery stands just above the river-junction. It is an impressive collection of redwashed buildings surrounded by prayer walls and chörten. The ensemble consists of a two-storeyed temple, which is flanked by two lower buildings (common rooms or residential houses), right beside a huge field of mani- and matri-stones.[1] The entrance of the temple faces southwest, where a common forecourt is situated. Through an entrance hall with a mani chapel one can reach the temple interior that measures 15.0  x 16.0 m. Four wooden pillars support the ceiling. The main altar flanked by bookshelves is located in the rear part of the room opposite the entrance. The walls are covered with murals, in front of the sidewalls further altars are placed. In the centre of the ceiling a lantern with a window lights up the interior and shows another huge bookshelf which can be accessed from upstairs.
The circumambulation path (kora) leads around the temple buildings and the mani field, where chörten of different sizes are located. Four residential houses are situated in the east of the temple, three more can be found on the northern slope of the hill. Directly on the west side, a large meadow adjoins the temple area providing enough space for large assemblages of pilgrims who come annually or at least every twelve years in the Dragon Year. At the foot of the temple area, directly in front of the bridge that leads from the river valley up to the monastery, an impressive group of Tibetan watermills can be found.

[1] Mani-stones are Stones with inscriptions of sacred syllables of Buddhism, matri-stones with syllables of Bon, see Kind 2012, p. 427.
References
Kind, Marietta. The Bon Landscape of Dolpo: Pilgrimages, Monasteries, Biographies and the Emergence of Bon. Berlin: Peter Lang 2012, pp. 214-256
Kind, Marietta. Kristallberg im Drachengebrüll. Pilgerreise um den heiligen Berg in Nepal. In: Die Alpen, Schweizer Alpen-Club SPC, 02 2015, pp. 35-43
Mathes, Klaus Dieter. The Sacred Crystal Mountain in Dolpo: Beliefs and Pure Visions of Himalaya Pilgrims and Yogis. In: Journal of the Nepal Research Centre, ed. By A. Wezler, Vol XI 1999, pp. 61-84

Site Plan

Site plan of Shey Monastery. TU Graz/Auer 2018

Photo documentation

View from the river valley. Auer 2018

South-western view of the monastery. Auer 2018

North-eastern view from above. Auer 2018

North-western view of the monastery. Auer 2018

Back side of the temple, right beside the huge fied of mani-stones. Auer 2018

Common forecourt in front of the temple. Auer 2018

Common forecourt in front of the temple. Auer 2018

Different types of chörten next to the mani-field. Auer 2018.

Residential houses on the eastern side of the complex. Auer 2018

Interior decoration

The lantern with bookshelf above the central part of the ground floor. Auer 2018

The main altar with the flanking bookshelf in the rear of the ground floor. Auer 2018

Sculptures of the main altar. Auer 2018


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