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Songzanlin Monastery is the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple complex in Yunnan Province. It is called the Little Potala Palace. In 1993, it was listed as a Key Provincial Protection Unit of Cultural Relics by the government of Yunnan Province.
It was a main temple used by Tibetans who lived in Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet and other areas in the southwestern part of China. It is said that the Fifth Dalai Lama decided the location though divination and gave the name—Gedansongzanlin (噶丹松赞林).
At its height, the monastery housed 2,000 monks. Now about 700 monks live there or around the region.
There is a main hall that can accommodate about 1,500 people. Sometimes, monks congregate there and chant lit by the light of numerous lamps.
The two main temple buildings called Zhacang and Jikang are located in the center at the highest point in the complex. The lower floor of the main building has 108 columns.
Besides the two main temple buildings, there are several smaller buildings. There are places for monks to live that are decorated in Chinese style.
The Gedong Festival is held at the monastery about November 29 each year. Buddhists around the region attend to worship. A highlight of this festival is when dancers do the Cham Dance. They put on masks and clothes that portray deities, ghosts and animals.
A three day Horse Racing Festival is held on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, around June. Besides horse racing, there is wrestling and other sports. There is dancing, singing and eating in addition to sports and entertainment. You can see horse sellers arrayed in their best silks and furs. Tibetans camp out at a meadow that is designated meadow for racing horses.
A new festival was introduced in 1990s. It is called the Minority Festival. It is held in September, and artists and craftspeople come to present their art and sell it.
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