Location and Layout
The nunnery as viewed from the fertile DodéDog bde Valley
NegodongGnas sgo gdong nunnery is located in the LhasaLha sa suburb known as DodéDog bde, northeast of SeraSe ra (and also of LhasaLha sa). The nunnery is about one kilometer from the main road – that is, from the road that leads from LhasaLha sa to Penpo’Phan po. It sits on a small rise overlooking the DodéDog bde villagers’ fields of barley. It is about a two hour walk from downtown LhasaLha sa, and slightly less from SeraSe ra. Today most people would take the bus from LhasaLha sa to DodéDog bde and walk from there. The nunnery is also located at the base of the mountain below the Khardo Hermitage (Khardo RitröMkhar rdo ri khrod).
As is typical of the hermitages (ritröri khrod), the surrounding landscape is imbued with religious significance. For example, the “imposing, dark-colored, solid-rock mountain shaped like a triangle” to the east of the nunnery is believed to be the soul-mountain or laribla ri of the protector deity of the nunnery, Lhamo NyizhönLha mo nyi gzhon. It is called Jomo SisiJo mo si si, and is reckoned as one of the “Three Great Mountains” (Richen SumRi chen gsum) on the outskirts of LhasaLha sa. The peak north of the monastery is called “The Soul-Mountain of Juniper Forests” (Shukpé Nak LariShug pa’i nags bla ri), because it used to be covered with juniper trees (some juniper trees are still to be found close to the top of the mountain today). Two other nearby peaks1 were sites that local Lhasans would visit (to) make burnt juniper offerings and raise flags (sangsöl dardzukbsangs gsol dar ’dzugs) on the third day of the Tibetan New Year.
There are two important springs very close to the hermitage: the Ravine Spring (Drokmo ChumikGrog mo chu mig) and the Sound-Catcher (or Ear) Spring (Dradzin ChumikSgra ’dzin chu mig). Each of them is said to have clean, clear water with medicinal properties. The water, it is said, never freezes, but continues to run even during the coldest winter months. The area around the springs is used as a picnic spot by the local laity, who will often take their noontime meal here when they come to the nunnery for worship.
The front façade of the main temple.
According to its self-description, the nunnery contains the following buildings and rooms:
- A two-pillar temple front porch
- A five-pillar temple with a four-pillar assembly room
- A two-pillar scripture chapel (Kangyur lhakhangBka’ ’gyur lha khang)
- A four-pillar kitchen (just west of and sharing a wall with the main temple)
- A two-pillar storage room on the other side of the main entrance from the kitchen
- A twenty-two-pillar dormitory with three stories (located behind the main temple)
To this “self-description” we might add that the main temple has a reception room and a protector deity chapel on its second floor. This is also where the present administrator – a senior nun – has her rooms. Some newer buildings have recently gone up just northeast of the main temple. They contain nuns’ living quarters, and at least one of these contains a small improvised chapel that appears to have been added almost as an afterthought to attract the donations of lay visitors.
The nunnery is reckoned as one of the three practice-centers (drupdésgrub sde) associated with Khardo Hermitage (Khardo RitröMkhar rdo ri khrod) (the other two being Khardo Hermitage itself, and NenangGnas nang).