A few miles west of Lhasa (lha sa), just above the village of Denbak (ldan bag) or Dampa (dam pa) and now just a suburb of the city, lies Drepung ('bras spungs, lit. "pile of rice"), which during the last century was the largest monastery in the world with as many as thirteen-thousand monks. Although this monastery has undergone difficult times, it is still an important institution, with majestic buildings in a grandiose setting. Lying at the foot of Gepel Mountain (dge 'phel ri), the highest point in the Lhasa Valley at over 5100 meters, Drepung is a visually impressive site, with its hundreds of large buildings nestled in an imposing mountainous surrounding. It is one of the most important religious institutions in Tibet and hence its study offers a great avenue to penetrate Tibetan civilization, its religion, politics, economy, and culture. For in Drepung Monastery, all these aspects of traditional Tibetan life, which are often thought to exist separately, come together.
An Introduction to Drepung Monastery