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Tsurphu Monastery

Some 70km or so northeast of Lhasa, Tsurphu Monastery, set at an altitude of 4480m, is a couple hours' jeep ride or a pilgrims' bus (daily between 7am and 8am; ¥25) away from the western end of Barkhor Square. The monastery is the seat of the Karmapa Lama, though it's a seat that's pretty cold these days as the present incumbent, the Seventeenth, Urgyen Trinley Dorge, fled to India in 1999. Identified in 1992 at the age of 7, Urgyen is the second holiest Tibetan after the Dalai Lama and seems charismatic and able; he's regarded by many in the government in exile as a natural successor for the role of leader when the Dalai Lama dies.

Tsurphu Monastery Tsurphu Monastery
Tsurphu Monastery is the seat of the Karmapa Lama Several monks at the entrance of Tsurphu Monastery

Founded in the twelfth century by Dusun Khenyapa, the Karmapa order is a branch of the Kagyupa tradition, where members are known as the Black Hats after the Second Karmapa was presented with one by Kublai Khan. Most powerful during the fifteenth century, when they were close to the ruling families of the time, they were eventually eclipsed in 1642 when the Fifth Dalai Lama and the Gelugpa order, aided by the Mongol army, gained the ascendancy. The Karmapa were the first order to institute the system of reincarnated lamas, tulkus, a tradition later adopted by the Gelugpa school.

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