Pelkhor Chode Monastery
Lying about 230 kilometers (143 miles) south of Lhasa and 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Shigatse, Pelkhor Chode is a monastery having the feature of Han, Tibetan and Nepali architecture. Pelkhor Monastery boasts one of Tibet's two intact examples of a Kumbum Stupa. To understand what it means we have to examine each of the two componentd of this concept. A kumbum meaning "100,000 Buddha images" is a three dimensional embodiment of the two-dimensional mandala. Both are religious models of the Buddhist cosmos, ordered symbols of time, space and causation. By moving through either of these microcosms, one a diagram, the other a structure, the devotee re-enacts and re-affirms a path to enlightenment.
Each of the layers of the kumbum stupa has a different symbolic meaning. The square base is symbolic of the earth, the dome of water and the spire of fire. The moon and the sun that top the structure symbolize air and space.
The lowest four floors are comprised of sixty-four chapels, and as the entire structure tapers to the top, the number and size of the chapels decreases. The fifth floor has only four chapels. On the uppermost floor, a single chapel crowns the entire structure. Central chapels have a shrine located against their rear walls, whilst side chapels usually position theirs against a side wall. Internal stairwells, which themselves are counted as chapels, are on the first four floors located at the south-eastern corner. On the upper levels, they are sporadically set, nonetheless obliging the visitor to circumambulate the stupa in the customary clockwise direction.
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