Ashoka Stupa in Nangchen

According to the Buddhist scriptures, with the wish of spreading the teachings of the Buddha, King Ashoka of India divided the relics of Lord Buddha and constructed 84,000 stupas (reliquary pagoda) to enshrine these precious objects of devotion.

In China, 19 of such stupas were constructed. However, most of them have collapsed due to natural wear and tear as well as human negligence. Some have been moved to other locations. In the process of restoring some of these stupas, many relics of Lord Buddha and a huge amount of precious offering items were discovered. The stupa in Nangchen was one of these 19 archaic and precious structures of devotion.

In history, Nangchen was an important center of politics and trades in Eastern Tibet, and therefore it was also a very active center for missionary activities. This explains why Ashoka chose Nangchen as one of the locations to build the reliquary stupa.

In the later history, Nangchen too proved to be an extraordinary place for spreading Buddhism. With the support of the once-glorious Nangchen dynasty, this Buddhist kingdom had produced generations of Dharma kings, exemplary scholars and amazingly qualified monks, yogis and practitioners. Therefore Nangchen is also fondly known by great masters as Gomde or the “abode of meditators”.

In the next thousand of years, there was no proven record of how the stupa had been maintained or restored. However, according to popular legends, in the west of the stupa, where the present-day Chamdo Monastery is located, there was a monastery whose monks had at one time constructed a roofed building where devotees stayed and protected the stupa. Much later, the monastery was burned down and the holy stupa was destroyed overnight, only an earth mould was left in its place. Some of the older people in this area said that they had seen an earth mould looking like the shape of a house of about 4 to 5 meters in height. But during the Cultural Revolution, several locals removed the foundation rocks of the stupa to make their own homes, and over time, the stupa had become unrecognizable. During the process, apparently a stone pillar inscribed with the history of Ashoka’s building of the stupa was unearthed, but the pillar disappeared a year later. The place where the stupa used to be erected became a historical site of ruins.

In recent years, devotees and practitioners have developed a great wish to restore the stupa, however due to a lack of fundings, their wish could not be fulfilled, therefore they requested the late Trulshik Adeu Rinpoche of the Drukpa Lineage to fulfill his wish. Rinpoche personally checked the historical site of the ruins and even wrote a brief history of the stupa.

Unfortunately, due to befalling impermanence, Trulshik Adeu Rinpoche left this world before he could embark on this project. Before his passing, he left with his nephew, Trulshik Satrul Rinpoche, also from the Drukpa Lineage, his very own hand-written abridged history of the Ashoka stupa as well as a draft of the design plan.

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