Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

THL Title Text
A Survey of Bonpo Monasteries
by Dondrup Lhagyal, Phuntso Tsering Sharyul, Tsering Thar, Charles Ramble and Marietta Kind
Edited by Samten G. Karmay and Yasuhiko Nagano
National Museum of Ethnology and THL
Reproduced with permission from the authors
under the THL Digital Text License.

Chu chen County

(188) mTsho mtho Monastery

1. Name

The monastery’s full name is mTsho mtho gShen bstan nor bu’i gling. It is also known as Tsho steng Monastery.

2. Location

The monastery is located 40 km northwest of Chu chen, the seat of the Chu chen county (there is a distance of 36 km from the county town to Sa ba kyo township, and another 4 km from there to the monastery).

3. History

The monastery was founded two years before the introduction of the Rab byung system of datation (1027). It is not certain who the founder was. A list of the names of its abbots is available:

  1. bsTan pa rgyal mtshan
  2. bSam gtan phun tshogs
  3. Legs pa rgyal mtshan
  4. gYung drung khri zer
  5. dBang rgyal bstan ’dzin
  6. Nor bu dpal dbang
  7. Tshe dbang
  8. Sha trog pa
  9. Nam mkha’ bstan ’dzin
  10. bKra shis rgyal mtshan
  11. bSod nams g-yung drung
  12. bsTan ’dzin nor bu
  13. Nam mkha’ dbang rgyal
  14. gYung drung bstan ’dzin
  15. ’Dul rgyal phun tshogs
  16. lHa dbang bstan ’dzin
  17. Nam mkha’ bstan ’dzin
  18. Nam mkha’ dbang ldan
  19. bSod nam bstan ’dzin
  20. Nyi ma dbang rgyal
  21. Nam mkha’ lha sgron
  22. Sangs rgyas bstan ’dzin
  23. bsTan pa’i blo gros
  24. Nyi ma grags pa
  25. gShen rgyal bstan ’dzin, the present abbot

4. Hierarchical system

  • mkhan po
  • dge bskos (elected by the monks for three years)
  • dbu mdzad
  • mchod dpon

In this monastery, it is the dge bskos who appoints the dbu mdzad, lha gnyer and mchod dpon, and who determines their terms of office.

5. Current number of monks

There were thirty novices and monks in the monastery in autumn 1998.

6. Current education

There are six different classes devoted to the following sbjects:

  1. Sum rtags snyan gsum (sum cu pa, rtags ’jug and snyan ngag)
  2. Tshad ma
  3. ’Dul ba
  4. dBu ma
  5. Phar phyin
  6. mDzod

8 / 9. Rituals

Commemoration of mNyam med Shes rab rgyal mtshan on the 4th and the 5th days of the 1st month, ritual based on the gYung drung klong rgyas from the 10th to the 15th of the same month; the observance of the smyung gnas fast on the 14th and the 15th days of the 6th month; the recitation ritual known as Ti tri su’i sgrub chen on the 14th and the 15th days of the 11th month.

10. Books held in the monastery

The monastery has one printed copy of the Bonpo Kanjur, one printed copy of Shar rdza bKra shis rgyal mtshan’s collected works.

11. Income and expenses

The monastery has no regular Sources of income and depends on offerings from the faithful. The monks provide their own food.

12. Local community

The local lay community consists of four communities: A lag sho, Mu khre, Le dam and Kyab kya bho.

A lag sho community comprises four villages: We bu with nine families, Tho bo with four families, De thul with sixteen families and mTsho mtho with twenty families.

Mu khre community comprises five villages: Sa me with seven families, Dan ceb with twenty-two families, Mu khre with twenty-one families, Mur ye with six families and Yu ska with four families.

Le dam community comprises three villages: Le dam with twelve families, rGyal gu with three families and gZhi bzhor with thirty families.

Kyab kya bo community comprises three villages: lDe bzo with twenty-four families, Kyab kyo bo with fifty families and Le bu with twelve families. In addition there are ten nomad families connected with the four communities.

13. Local festivals

The mountain behind the monastery has a la bstas called Mo khrom dedicated to the spirit of the mountain. Its renewal festival takes place on the 5th of the 5th month.

There is also a sacred mountain known as Shel ri stag gsum located four hours’ walk west of the monastery. It is venerated only by the Bonpo communities on the 5th of the 5th month.

14. Occupation of the local people

Farmers, nomads


(1) Interviews

With the following monks in autumn 1998: gYung drung bstan ’dzin (b.1923) and Blo gros kun gsal (b.1933)

(2) Texts
  1. rNga khul chu chen rdzong mtsho steng dgon pa’i lo rgyus mdor bsdus in rNga ba khul gyi dgon pa’i lo rgyus. Compiled by the Religion Bureau and Buddhist Association of rNga ba Prefecture, MS, pp. 241-243
  2. rNga khul chu chen rdzong mtsho steng dgon pa’i lo rgyus mdor bsdus provides dates for the most of the abbots, but does not seem reliable enough to quote here.

Note Citation for Page

Dondrup Lhagyal, Phuntso Tsering Sharyul, Tsering Thar, Charles Ramble, and Marietta Kind, A Survey of Bonpo Monasteries and Temples in Tibet and the Himalaya (Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology, 2003), .

Bibliographic Citation

Dondrup Lhagyal, Phuntso Tsering Sharyul, Tsering Thar, Charles Ramble, and Marietta Kind. A Survey of Bonpo Monasteries and Temples in Tibet and the Himalaya. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology, 2003.