Pabonka hermitage/monastery, (near) Lhasa, Xizang, CN

Raw data

"Pabonka Monastery is one of the most ancient Buddhist sites in the Lhasa region. It […] is only a one-hour walk (or short taxi ride) from the Sera Monastery turn-off and is worth the effort.
Built on a flat-topped granite boulder, Pabonka may even predate the Jokhang and Ramoche. It was built in the 7th century by King Songtsen Gampo. The Tibetan king Trisong Detsen, Guru Rinpoche and Tibet’s first seven monks all meditated here at various times, and it was also here that the monk Thonmi Sambhota [ven.thonmisambhota] reputedly invented the Tibetan alphabet. It was destroyed in 841 by the anti-Buddhist King Langdharma and rebuilt in the 11th century. The fifth Dalai Lama added an extra floor to the two-storey building. It suffered damage in the Cultural Revolution and has undergone repairs in recent years."

"Pabonka Hermitage (Pha bong kha), also written Pawangka, is a historical hermitage, today belonging to Sera Monastery, about 8 kilometres northwest of Lhasa in the Nyang bran Valley on the slopes of Mount Parasol (Dbu gdugs ri) in Tibet.
Founded by Songtsän Gampo in the 7th century, it is currently the largest and most important of the Sera hermitages and is the starting point for the “Sixth-Month Fourth-Day” (Drug pa tshe bzhi) of the Sera Mountain Circumambulation Circuit (Se ra’i ri ’khor) pilgrimage.
The site, which is over 1,300 years old, dates back to Songtsän Gampo, the founder of the Tibetan Empire, and was amongst the first buildings built in the Lhasa area by him during the 7th century after settlement. Although originally the site of his castle or fort, the Tibetan Annals have revealed that Pabonka was converted into a monastery, possibly under the reign of the second great Buddhist king of Tibet Trisong Detsen. Detsen, along with Guru Rinpoche [= Padmasambhava] and the first seven monks of the new Tibetan Empire used to meditate at the hermitage and it became one of Tibet's very earliest Buddhist monasteries, possibly even pre-dating Jokhang [in its role as a monastery. it was established as a temple circa 650 CE - tmciolek]. The original nine-storied monastery was partially destroyed by King Langdharma in 841 during his campaign to destroy monastic Buddhism; it was rebuilt in the 11th century as a two-storied structure that housed 200 monks."

Input by: tmciolek, Aug 5, 2012

“"Pabangka" means "giant stone palace" in Tibetan language. The Pabangka Monastery is located in the cove which is about 9 kilometers away from west of Sera Monastery, on north of Lhasa. […] According to legends, Songtsen Ganpo ever practiced there and took charge of construction work of this monastery before building Jokhang Temple and Ramoche Monastery. There is a cave under the giant stone. It is said that the cave was the practice place of Songtsen Ganpo. There is an earth platform in the cave which was the throne of Songtsen Ganpo. In addition, there are some stone statues of Buddhas which were carved by Nepal craftsmen. It is recorded in relevant Tibetan history that the palace was nine floors' high when it was built; it was constructed with bricks, and the seam of bricks was filled with cooper; and four sides of the construction was fixed with four iron chains. That's the "Marubao Palace" which has good reputation in Tibetan history. It is said that Songtsen Ganpo ever received foreign envoys and talked about affairs of the state in the palace. According to legends, Tunmi Sangbuzha [= Thonmi Sambhota] who was important officer of Songtsen Ganpo ever lived in Pabangka Monastery after he studied in Indian. In Pabangka Monastery, Tunmi Sangbuzha hard worked for three years and created Tibetan Character based on Sanskrit and Wuerdu Character. He first taught Songtsen Ganpo and officers Tibetan Character in Pabangka Monastery and wrote the Sutra of Six Truest Words with Tibetan Character and carved on stone. Then Songtsen Ganpo proclaimed the characters created by Tunmi Sangbuzha as the unified characters of Tubo Kingdom. Later, Trison Detsen and Padmasambhava and master of Samye Monastery ever came there. The Pabangka Monastery became important place of religious activities, as well as the center of politics and Buddhism in Tubo Kingdom.
In 841, Langdama burned Pabangka Monastery. In history, Pabangka Monastery was repaired for several times. In late grand period of Buddhism, Boduowa Renqinsai who was famous disciple of Adixia [=Atisha] and his disciple came to Pabangka Monastery to worship [… and] repair the Pabangka Monastery. Accordingly, a two floors' hall was built up on the ruin. Later, the monks of Kadampa repaired original 108 pagodas, carved Buddha statues and built Lakhang. At that time, the Pabangka Monastery was with over 400 monks, and became important monastery of Tibetan Buddhism. In the period of fifth Dalai Lama, the Pabangka Monastery was repaired and enlarged in large scale. One floor was added to the two floors' high hall. In the period of Cultural Revolution, the Pabangka Monastery was destroyed. The existence is the wall of ground floor. […] ” -
Input by: tmciolek, Jan 29, 2013

Final data (and their sources)

Last updated: 29 Jan 2013

Lat/Long coordinates' accuracy:
The monastery in question is assumed to be situated actually no farther than 200 m from the point defined by the coordinates below.

Location of Pabonka monastery, CN.

General location of the Pabonka monastery, CN.
Lat 29.7193 Long 91.1176
Mapping & images: Falling Rain Genomics (, 2009.

Google Map link:,%20CN)&ll=29.7193,91.1176&spn=05.0,05.0&t=k&hl=en

Final data - explanatory notes

1. Monastery's name

2. Monastery's modern country & province

  • China:Xizang Zizhiqu

3. Monastery's alternative/historical names

4. Monastery's lat/long coordinates

  • Approx., Lat 29.7193 Long 91.1176 - based on the visual indetfification of the site in satellite imagery in, tmciolek, Aug 5 2012.
  • Approx., Lat 29.719722, Long 91.118333 -

5. Other known nearby Buddhist monasteries

6. Modern name of the known nearest city, town, or village

7. The settlement's alternative/historical names

8. The settlement's coordinates

9. Monastery's major Buddhist tradition

  • Vajrayana

10. Monastery's Buddhist sub-tradition

11. Date-early

  • MBM chrono-tag: 0733-66p 0767-99p - tmciolek 29 Jan 2013
  • 0733-66p 0767-99p 0800-32c 0833-66c 0867-99c 0900-32c 0933-66c 0967-99c 1000-32c 1033-66c 1067-99c 1100-32c 1133-66c 1167-99c 1200=> dated-el

12. Date-intermediate

13. Date-late

  • MBM chrono-tag: 1200=> - tmciolek 29 Jan 2013

14. Details of contacts with other monasteries

15. Type of evidence regarding the monastery

  • Archaeological, architectural

16. Additional notes

17. Corrections & addenda to this page were kindly provided by

  • [missing data]

end of page

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License