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Yamdrok Lake
One of the “Three Holy Lakes of Tibet”

The lake is located at the south bank of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, and in Nagarze County, Shannan Prefecture, about 110 km in the south of Lhasa. Kamba La Pass with 5030 meters should be over from Lhasa to Yamdrok Lake. With 4,441 meters about sea level, the lake is with 250 kilometers lake shoreline and 638 square kilometers lake surface area, 130 meters long from east to west, 70 meters wide from south to north. Besides, the lake boasts average depth of 20-40 meters and the deeper point is 60 meters. The lake is freshwater lake and is the bigger inland lake in the north of Himalaya Mountains.

The lake surface is like a mirror and lake side is rich in water plants, which make the lake a fecund highland pasture. There are much plankton in the lake and abundant bait, so the lake is a rich “natural fish store house”. The lake teems with highland naked carps that is tender and delicious. You will be astonished to see so many fishes in the lake. The local herdsmen do not eat any fish and also are opposed to fishing and hunting birds. Now, though the circumstance changes to some extent, the fishes still exceed the fish-eater. And it serves as the biggest inhabit of waterfowls in south Tibet. The water birds are composed of swan, yellow duck, water pigeon, water hawk, egret, mandarin duck and gulls. In the time of reproduction, the dozens of island in the lake changes into natural egg world, offering a splendid view.

The Yamdrok Lake is only 6 kilometer away to Yarlug Zangbo at the narrowest place, separated by a mountain range Lhagoi Kangri what streches more than 360 kilometers. The altitude of the lake surface in the south of the mountain is 4,441 meters above sea level, and in the north of the mountain is just 3,570 meter, providing a fall about 800 meters. The lake contains as much as 15 billion liters of water, holding plenty of hydropower resources. There are three snow peaks in the west bank of the lake, among of which Noijin Kangsang Peak is the highest peak with 7206 meters above sea level. Besides, Noijin Kangsang Peak is the main peak of the Lagrange Mountains and the important holy mountain in Shigatse areas. The Yamdrok Lake water power station is built here. It is the biggest hydroelectric power station in Tibet and the highest elevation pumped storage power station in the world. The famous Karola Glacier is located in the south of Noijin Kangsang Peak.

It goes that a devout Buddhist should circumambulate the lake once every year, one month taken by riding horse. Circumambulating the lake one circle is equivalent to a pilgrimage to the holy city of Lhasa, and the Buddha will bless him with good luck during this year.

Anyhow, why it is called holy lake mainly lies at that it is able to help people to find the reincarnated holy boy of Dalai Lama. After a Dalai Lama passes away, the senior monks are responsible to find the reincarnation. Firstly, they will invite the Living Buddha to divination and invite wizard to evocation, which help them to point out the probable place where the reincarnation live. And then come to Yamdrok Lake to chant and pray, and even throw Hada (a piece of silk used as a blessing object), valuable bottle, medicine and other holy articles into the lake. Finally, the person who hold the ceremony will see the reflection and point out the specific born place. If the above three ceremonies point out the same place, they will dispatch people to find the reincarnation boy according to the orientation.

The Tibetans worship the Yamdrok Lake and more often regard it as the seat of the goddess Dorje Gegkyi Tso (Vajrayogini) who is the female Dharma protector for Tibetan areas.

There is an old temple - Samding Monastery - with over 300 years history located on a steep mountain in the south west Yamdrok Lake. Samding Monastery is Shangpa Kagyu Branch of Kagyu Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Both monks and nuns reside in the monastery. Yamantaka is the main Buddha in Dharmapalas hall. What makes Samding Monastery unique is that since its establishment it is presided by the only female incarnate lama (living Buddha) Dorje Phagmo. The female living Buddha Dorje Phagmo is regarded as the Indian deity, namely Vajrayogini’s incarnation (Diamond Sow, with human head and pig body). The abbess of Samding Monastery is the third most important living Buddha in Tibet, after Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama.

There have been twelve generations of reincarnation of the female living Buddha Dorje Phagmo so far. They are highly respected. The mortal bodies of the past generations of Dorje Phagmo are housed inside the monastery.

The present 12th Dorje Phogmo is Dechen Choedon. Currently, she lives in Lhasa, and works for the Tibetan government. Every year, she returns to Samding Monastery, Gyantse some times to preach a sermon and pray for followers, for example, for the monastery's annual cham (ritual mask dance) festival for sacrificing Yamantaka on the eighth day of the fifth lunar month of Tibetan calendar.

At present, there are about 50 monks and nuns in residence. They mainly practice Vajrayogini's Tantra as well as Indian Tantric Yoga.

The layout of Samding Monastery looks similar to Potala Palace, which is divided into the red part and the white one.

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