City of Nuns


Yarchen Gar

Yarchen Gar is an isolated monastery located in East Tibet (west Sichuan) at around 4,000 meters above sea level. The monastery is associated with the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. It was founded in 1985 by Lama Achuk Rinpoche (1927-2011). The monastery’s focus is on meditation and practice rather than philosophy.

Yarchen Gar consists of a large encampment with thousands of small homes clustered on a remote peninsula at the bend of a river (“Gar” means literally a Buddhist encampment). One estimates that there were around 10,000 people here at its peak. The vast majority being women, this is one of the largest communities of nuns in the world.

In small buildings, many built by the residents, the nuns pray, meditate and sleep. On the higher west bank of the river are the homes of monks. Narrow bridges connect the two areas. Monks are not allowed to enter the nuns’ quarters on the West side of the river.

Parts of the monastic dwellings at Yarchen Gar have been demolished several times by the authorities through the years. The images below show Yarchen Gar before the latest demolitions.

See also the image captions for some additional information.

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