Derge - Small but influencial

Dege (Derge) is in far west of Sichuan provincewith an altitude of 3220m and a population of 59,000 in county 97% of it are Tibetans, people everywhere call them Khampas, they are brave, generous, walking stut and vigorous. It was, in history, especially in culture, roundly considered the cultural heart of Tibet, Dege is an isolated town located a mere 13km from the Yangtze and the border of Tibet autonomous region. The dialect spoken here considered very cultured and in some way different from those of other area of Tibetan dwellings.

Since before the 15 century, the seat of the Kingdom of Derge - the most powerful of the five kingdoms of East Tibet. Fiercely independent and powerful, it was ruled for 47 generations by hereditary kings under whose rule Dege's political and religious influence spread across the whole of Kham. In the 17c, when the Mongol forces swept Kham converting the inhabitants to the Gelugpa school in support of the 5th Dalai Lama, the Kingdom of Derge was one of the few not to succumb. Nonetheless, it was unable to repel the armies of a neighbouring chieftain in 1863, and its independence was only restored with the assistance of the Tibetan army 2 years later; from this time hence Dege could no longer claim total independence. Of the various schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the Sakyapa, Kagyupa and Nyingmapa have been the most prominent in Dege.

The 15 century Gonchen Gompa quickly became an important centre for students of the Sakya school. The establishment of the 18 century Palpung Gompa made this region the centre for the Karma Kagyupa school - it was recently designated one of the world's most important endangered mhanuments by the World Monuments Fund, allowing it to receive critical help with its restoration and preservation. The 17 century Dzogchen monastery (Nyingmapa sect, located 50km to the north of Manigange) is one of the most important monasteries in Kham and a thriving centre of learning for the teachings of Dzogchen. Most famously, though, is the Parkhang printing press (the Derge printing house), which houses an invaluable collection of Tibetan religious and scholarly works (by some estimates, 80% of all Tibetan works). Built early 18c when the Kingdom of Derge was at its peak, it has been printing continuously, using the same traditional methods, since 1729 (aside from a brief shutdown during the Cultural Revolution). Over 210,000 woodblocks and 3500 pieces of woodpaintings blocks (engraved boards)here. It's the sole source of Tibetan printed material for the monasteries, schools and libraries in the greater Kham area. It's also revered as 'Kham's Potala Palace'. Dzongsar Monastery (Sakyapa) and Dzongsar Institute, an important place of study for lamas of all major schools of Tibetan buddhism. Beautiful setting. Many printing books (in fact printing boards) kept here are rare in the world, its original books in India have lost in history.

Derge printing house was one of the most famous printing houses once existed in Tibetan area, the other two are Natang pring house in Natang monastery, Potala printing house in Potala palace. But the Natang printing house had long ceased working on printing. The prints made in Derge have been sold everywhere in world.