Ganden Monastery, the greatest and the oldest of the six Gelug Sect's monasteries, is regarded as one of "the three principal monasteries in Lhasa" along with the Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery. Ganden monastery is located on Wangbur Mountain, on the southern bank of Lhasa River in Tagtse County, 47 kilometers (29 miles) from Lhasa City. Standing at the altitude of 12,467 feet above sea level on the Wangbur Mountain, Ganden monastery is in typical Tibetan style and three times as large as Potala Palace. At its peak, Ganden monastery had a registration of more than 4,000 monks. In Tibetan language, Ganden means "joyful" and is the Tibetan name for Tusita, the heaven where the bodhisattva Maitreya is said to reside. The founder of Gelug Sect, Tsong Khapa, established this Ganden monastery as the first Gelug monastery in the early 15th century.
In 1733, Emperor Yongzheng of Qing dynasty bestowed the name "Yongtai". And Gandenpai, Gelug Sect's original name, which means exhortation, also named after the Ganden Monastery. The significance of Ganden Monastery as a religious, artistic, political and cultural relic led to it being preserved by the National Key Cultural Relic Preservation scheme in 1961. Every year, Buddha Painting Unfolding Festival, one of the biggest Buddhist activities in Tibet, is conducted in the Ganden Monastery, which attracts thousands of visitors and disciples to come. Ganden Monastery consists of over 50 structures. The main buildings in the Ganden Monastery are the Main Assembly Hall (or Coqen Hall), Zhacangs, Khangtsens, and Myicuns. And the three main sights of Ganden Monastery are the Serdung, which contains the golden tomb of Tsongkhapa, the Tsokchen Assembly Hall and the Ngam Cho Khang Chapel where Tsongkhapa traditionally taught his students.
When you come to visit Ganden Monastery, it will be incomplete without walking its hour long pilgrimage route. The views over the Lhasa River Valley from the 14,500 feet high vantage point are inspiring, their beauty paying rich tribute to Tsongkhapa's prudence in locating his monastery here. This walk will also introduce many aspects of a Tibetan pilgrimage route. Here is some guide information for your tour to the Ganden Monastery: As Ganden Monastery is far away from the city, it needs about 1 day to visit Ganden Monastery, though 2 hours will be enough for a visit inside Ganden Monastery; There are shuttle buses heading to Ganden Monastery at the square of Jokhang Temple every day. The bus starts to run at 07:00 in the morning and return at 14:00 in the afternoon. The round-trip ticket is CNY 20; Admission Fee: CNY45; Opening Hours: 09:00-16:00.