The Watch

Palpung Monastery

Babang Village, Sichuan Province, China

1998 and 2000 World Monuments Watch

Remote Palpung Monastery, accessed by a single road, remains a thriving Buddhist university. Campus facilities include a printing house, monastic quarters, and numerous stupas (shrines). Palpung was founded by King Denba Tsering, a Buddhist religious leader of the Dege Kingdom which, under his rule, expanded to 25 tribes on the eastern plateau of former Tibet. The main assembly hall is the largest Dege-style Tibetan building in the world, with thick rammed earthen walls embellished and strengthened with inset logs, decorated window frames, and carved wood motifs. But this fine and resilient building is in danger. A major earthquake in 1993 leveled a three-story monastery wing. Rainwater has rotted structural members and clay build-up on the roof from repairs has added undue weight to the structure. Repairs to the monastery have proceeded at a pace barely ahead of the process of decay. Survival of this intellectually and architecturally significant outpost depends on stabilizing the structure, determining ways to reuse old timber and replace rotten wood, and making the roof water-tight. Reforestation of the slopes surrounding the monastery would reduce the danger of erosion affecting the building's foundation.

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