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The Ganden Sumtseling Monastery

The Ganden Sumtseling Monastery, also known as Sungtseling and Guihuasi,is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery situated 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from the city of Zhongdian at elevation 3,380 metres (11,090 ft) in Yunnan province, China.Built in 1679, the monastery is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan province and is sometimes referred to as the Little Potala Palace. Located in the capital of Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, it is also the most important monastery in southwest China.

The Monastery built in the 17th century as the largest Buddhist monastery in Yunnan province, after a revelation by the Fifth Dalai Lama is in accordance with Tibetan traditional architectural style. It has six main structures including eight colleges. The entrance gate is at the foot of the hill and provides access to the main hall of the monastery through 146 steps.

In the main hall of the monastery, more than 1500 monks congregate to recite the Buddhist scriptures. This hall houses a plethora of scriptures written on palm leaves, a gilded statue of Shakyamuni Buddha which is 8 metres (26 ft) tall at the main altar along with paintings depicting the life of Buddha. The altar has permanent decorated by yak butter lamps.

The monastery has two major lamasery buildings Zhacang and Jikang apart from several smaller lamaseries. Numerous living rooms have also been built for the monks to reside. The main monastery structure built in Tibetan style has a gilded copper roof similar to the one at the Potala Monastery in Lhasa. The other buildings in the complex are built in Han Chinese style.

The road from the old town of the city, leads to the scripture chamber (Gucheng Zangjingtang), which was earlier a Red Army Memorial hall to commemorate the Red Army's long march in the 1930s. At the opposite end of this hall, across the street is the Gulshan Park (Gulshan Gongyuan), which has a monastery with a commanding view of the town and its surroundings. Further along the road, known as the 'Changzeng Lu' (2 kilometres (1.2 mi) long north-south trending street with intersecting roads laid in grid pattern) to the extreme south, is another temple. Passing through this street leads to gardens and a pavilion; and further to the north on a hill, there is a Chorten (Tibetan stupa). The east west road 'Tuanje Jie' leads to many smaller temples at the south end around the old town.

The Gedong Festival is held in the precincts of the monastery annually on 29 November when devotees from the region attend to worship and also to witness the religious mask dances the Cham dance that are performed by the monks in colourful costumes depicting deities, ghosts and animals.

A three day 'Horse Racing Festival' also known as 'Heavenly Steed Festival' is held at Zandiaong, some time in June, to the south east of the town, which involves dancing, singing and eating, in addition to the racing of horses. Horse traders assemble here in their finest attire of furs and silks. Families of villagers camp in tents at the designated horse racing meadow land at an elevation of 3,288 metres (10,787 ft).

A new festival introduced in 1990s is called the 'Minority Festival' held in September when artists from neighbouring districts and Tibet participate to present their art forms.
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