Experience the Fascination of Sherpa Monasteries

Historical overview of the foundation of the main settlement areas
and monasteries by Sherpas in Solu-Khumbu

The following overview provides an indication of the historical depth of the settlements and founding of monasteries by the Sherpas in  Solu-Khumbu. Regarding dates of the times before the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, we have little consecutive year-by-year records  of history in Tibetan and Sherpa tradition. Historical events, if they have been recorded in written form, were rather noted within genealogies and/or rabjung cycles of 60 years, or they have been transmitted verbatim within life stories of Lamas and heroes from generation to generation.

Location Map of monasteries in Solu-Khumbu, North-East Nepal: based on the expedition led by Corneille Jest and Wolfgang Korn 1973, updated in 2019 with further places of interest

Historical Overview

1480 – 1500:               The ancestors of the Sherpas leave Kham in Eastern Tibet and settle in south-central Tibet in the region of Tinkye
1533:                               The ancestors of the Sherpas cross the Nangpa La (pass), (historical date related to crisis in Tibet,
                                         leading to the migration of Sherpas from Tinkye to Khumbu)
16th century :             The families of the clans of Minyagpa and Thimmi settled in the Khumbu area (historical events discerned from genealogies)
1553                                Start of Settlement of Solu area
16th/17th century:   The families of the Serwa and Chakpa clans proceeded  immediately to the southern area of Solu (Shorung),
                                          later followed by  the  majority of the other clans (historical events discerned  from  genealogies)
Mid-17th century:     Founding of Temple at Sengephuk (by Lama Pakdze)
1636 or 1720:               Foundation of Gonjong (Junbesi) Gonpa (first date stated on the sign board above the temple, second date related to the life
                                          story of Lama Dorje Jangbu, son of Lama Pakdze)
1667                                Foundation of Pangboche Gonpa (related to the life story of Lama Sangwa Dorje)
1667—77                       Founding of Thame Gonpa and Rimichung Gonpa (by brothers of Sangwa Dorje, named Khenpa Dorje and Rolwa Dorje)
                                          Founding of Khumjung Temple (on chayik, formal authorization from the Pangboche Lama, Kusho Dongumba)
Before 1850                   Lama Dorje Jigtal brings the public festival tradition of Dumji, formerly developed in Mindroling (Central Tibet),
                                         to Junbesi Gonpa (related to Dorje Jigtal’s life story)
~1875                              Construction of Changma Gonpa (district Ramechap, by a member of Salaka clan, date discerned from genealogy)
1850  - 1900                First foundation of Jyasa Temple (later destroyed by fire, again by earthquake in 1934)
1905                                Founding of Nawoche Temple
1914                                Renovation of Gonjong (Junbesi) Gonpa
1916                                Foundation of Tengboche Gonpa, first celibate monastery in Solu-Khumbu (by Lama Ngawang Nurbu Jangbu, alias Lama Gulu)
1923                                Founding of Chiwong Gonpa, formerly the largest celibate monastery in Solu (by Sangye Lama from Phaplu)
1924                                Foundation of Metophake Gonpa (by Lama Karma)
1925                                Founding of Deboche Gonpa, the first Sherpa nunnery
1936                                New Foundation of Jyasa Gonpa (by Lama Pema Sang Ngag Tenzin)
1938                                Construction of Phugmoche Gonpa (by Lama Ngawang Yenden)
1940                                Foundation of Trakshindo Gonpa (by Lama Tokden Tsulthrim)
1950                                Construction of Thodung Gonpa (in the district Ramechap by Lama Dakyipa)
1952                                Transformation of Thame Gonpa into a celibate monastery
1959                                Foundation of Serlok Monastery (Serlo Gonpa, by Lama Sangye Tenzin)
1960                                Foundation of Thupten Choling (Tibetan Monastery)
                                         Construction of Kilkhor Dhingma Gonpa (below Pike peak, by Lama Sonam Chode)
1978                                Foundation of Sherpa Seva Kendra (in Bodhnath, initiated by Ang Dorje Lama)

Remarks:     The foundation of further monasteries of the Khumbu, Solu and Ramechap region is still to be dated.  However, due to the earthquake of 1934 some temples had to be rebuild and the exact dating of the former temples is yet to be conducted. We appreciate to receive further information from readers and visitors. Correctly spoken: gonpa is a monastery remote from the village, while a village temple should be termed Lhakhang (“deity house”). However, in common usage most village temples are also called gonpa.   


Berg, Eberhard 2011:  Building the Sherpas’ New Present in the Age of Globalization. Lumbini.
March, Kathryn 1979:  The Intermediacy of women. Female Gender Symbolism and the Social Position of Women among Tamang and Sherpas of Highland Nepal. Cornell University.
Mühlich, Michael 1996: Traditionelle Opposition: Individualität und Weltbild der Sherpa. Pfaffenweiler
Oppitz, Michael 1968: Geschichte und Sozialordnung der Sherpa. Innsbruck und München
Ortner, Sherry B. 1989: High Religion. A cultural and Political History of Sherpa Buddhism. Princeton
Sangye Tenzin 1982 (1992):  Snowlight of Everest. Posthumously published by F.-K. Ehrhard & A.W. Macdonald. Stuttgart
Sherpa Thupten Lama 1999: The Sherpas and Sharkhumbu. Kathmandu.