Samye monastery, (towards) Tsetang, Xizang, CN

Raw data

"The [Tibetan] King Trisong Detsen had invited Shantarakshita, the abbot of Nalanda Monastery in India, to build a large monastery at Samye." (Coleman 1993:17).
Nyingma line. (Coleman 1993:17)
Input by: tmciolek, 25 Jan 2009.

Bsam-yas, Samye
The foundation of Bsam-yas is now generally dated to 779, during the reign of Khri srong lde btsan (742-c. 797), who adopted Buddhism probably in 762. The traditional accounts tell us that the renowned monk-scholar ??ntarak?ita, called the "Preceptor Bodhisattva" (mkhan po bodhi satwa) was invited to teach in Tibet and to establish the beginnings of a Tibetan sangha. It is said that the overall plan of the monastery was inspired by Otantapuri in India. The establishment of an imperial translation bureau and the famed debate between the Chinese Chan master Moheyan [Heshang Moheyan (和尚摩訶衍 - tmciolek] and ??ntarak?ita’s disciple Kamalaśīla were among the important events taking place at Bsam was later in Khri srong lde’u btsan’s reign.
The relevant Buddhist text is the Padma-bka-'i-than. This documented debate is an important tie to Chinese Buddhism at the time.
Src: Tibet
Input by: SG Feb 21 2009

Modelled after the Indian monastery Odantaputri in Bihar, India. Acc. to Erik Haarh (Haarh 1963:121-170), the monastery was completed in 766 and consecrated in 767. When the construction was completed seven Tibetans received monastic vows. (Powers 2007:148).
Input by: tmciolek, Feb 23 2009.

"About 39km (24 miles) west of Tsetang, on the northern banks of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra River), stands Tibet's first monastery (late 8th c.), famous for its striking mandala design and as the site of the "Great Debate" (792-94) between the Indian Mahayanists and Chan (Japanese: Zen) Buddhists from China. This intriguing and protracted religious debate, held in the Western Temple (Jampa Ling), ended in victory for the Mahayanists. […] Although Samye has been razed several times, the mandala symmetry is intact. The main temple, Samye Utse, symbolizes Mount Meru, the center of the universe, surrounded by the four temples of the continents, the eight temples of each subcontinent, and the sun (south, ruined) and moon (north) temples."

The monastery, which contains a large temple, four large colleges and several other buildings, is enclosed by a lofty circular wall about a mile and ahlf in circumference, with gates, facing the cardinal points, and along the top of the wall are many votive crick Chaitlas of the the explorer Nain Singh counted 1030 and they seemed to be covered with inscriptions in ancient Indian characters. In the center of the enclosure stands the assembly hall, with radiating cloisters leading to four chapels [sic] facing at equal distances the four sides of the larger temple….

See L.A. Wadell, The Buddhism of Tibet (Cambridge: W. Heffer and Sons, 1959) p. 266. (Note: Since this and many other Tibetan monasteries have bee repeatedly rebuilt, it is difficult to tell waht was the original structure. SG]

Samyai, China Page
Other names: Sang-i
World:China:Xizang Zizhiqu
Lat 29.4000 Long 91.4667

Input by: tmciolek, Mar 18 2009.

Final data (and their sources)

Last updated: 10 Apr 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 Samye monastery, Tibet/China.

General location of the Samye monastery, Tibet/China.
lat=29.3264 long=91.5024
Mapping & images: Falling Rain Genomics (, 2009.

Google Map link:,%20CN)&ll=29.3264,91.5024&spn=05.0,05.0&t=k&hl=en

Final data - explanatory notes

1. Monastery's name

  • Samye monastery (Coleman 1993:17, Norbu and Turnbull 1976:163)

2. Monastery's modern country

  • China:Xizang Zizhiqu

3. Monastery's alternative/historical names

4. Monastery's lat/long coordinates

  • Approx. Lat 29.3264 Long 91.5024 - based on the visual identification of the Samye site in maps and satellite imagery, in, tmciolek, 4 Aug 2012.
  • Approx. [Bsam-yas] Lat 29.32088 Long 91.50669 (Src: Tibet Input by: SG Feb 21 2009)
  • Approx. [Samyai] Lat 29.4000 Long 91.4667

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

  • [missing data]

11. Date-early

  • Est. 766 and consecrated in 767 AD. When it was finished seven Tibetans received monastic vows - (Powers 2007:148).
  • MBM chrono-tag: 0767-99c - tmciolek 14 Dec 2012
  • 0767-99c 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

  • [missing data]
  • MBM chrono-tag: 1200=> - tmciolek 14 Dec 2012

14. Details of contacts with other monasteries

  • CONTACT: Set up 766 by Shantarakshita, the abbot of Nalanda Monastery in India - Coleman (1993:17).
  • CONTACT: 792-794 hosted famous debate between Kamalaśīla, a 'gradual-enlightenment' Mahayanist from India and Moheyan [Heshang Moheyan], a Chan ['sudden-enlightenment'] master from Mogao/Dunhuang monastic cluster in Western China.
  • CONTACT: in 1047 visited by Atisha and Dromton Gyalwai Jungne from Tholing monastery.
  • AFFINITY: Architecturally modeled after Uddandapura (aka Odantapuri) in Bihar, India.

15. Type of evidence regarding the monastery

  • Archaeological, texts, art historical.

16. Additional notes

  • [missing data] (incl. details of the size of the monastic population)

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

  • [missing data]

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