Initially built in 1665, Palyul Monastery (དཔལ་ཡུལ་དགོན།), also known as Baiyu Monastery( 白玉寺） in Chinese sits above the many homes along the hillside, at the center of a small village in the Ganzi Prefecture in the western part of Sichuan province. The monastery overlooks the town and valley below with an elevation around 3,150 meters. Sticking with the traditional style of Tibetan architecture and planning, the monastery and surrounding homes are built on the slope of the nearby mountain. At its peak, Baiyu Monastery housed hundreds of monks from all over, many of whom travelled great distances from affiliated branch monasteries.
Baiyu Monastery is one of the six “Mother Monasteries” that follow the Nyingma school of thought, or the Ancient Translation Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery was founded by Kunzang Sherab, who was the first throne holder as well. In addition to establishing the monastery, he also built several temples that hold enormous significance to the Tibetan monks today.
One of those important temples, The Chagrakhang, contains a gilded image made of copper depicting Jowo Shakyamuni in the form of Jowo Yeshin Norbu. The Temple also includes frescoes of the Namcho deities and in addition to other extravagant temples and halls, Baiyu Monastery contains an incredible library as well as the Dorsem Lhakhang.
Life in Baiyu Monastery
Just past the main halls, the monastery houses its own printing press. Although a small system, it is a very common sight on the second floor of the main hall to see carvers work diligently at crafting delicate scripts here in reverse for printing. Wandering the temples, halls and town nearby, you may also run into some of the 200 monks who are housed at the Baiyu Monastery. While the village has amenities for the monks and villagers to live here, there really isn’t much else to offer for visitors. Other than the Jixiang Hotel, the town itself has no restaurants or guesthouses for tourists to stay and eat at, although if you are lucky, you may find a welcoming villager or monk who will offer you room and board and the possibility of a home-cooked meal. The stupa is a popular gathering area where striking up a conversation with the villagers isn’t uncommon.