The Kingdom of Bhutan is one of the world’s smallest nations, with a population of about 797,000 people. It’s located high up in the eastern Himalayas of South Asia, and until recently it was virtually cut off from the outside world. But Bhutan is also home to the next vacation destination for you, me, and everyone else reading this. It’s called Chimi Lhakhang, and it’s a Buddhist monastery devoted entirely to the penis.
From the outside, Chimi Lhakhang looks like a typical Tibetan Buddhist temple…
But on the inside, it’s wall-to-wall schlongs…
Chimi Lhakang is known as “The Fertility Temple” to English-speakers. If (when) you visit, you’ll first need to head to the village of Sopsokha. From there, it’s about a 20 minute walk through rice paddies and mustard fields, until you reach the even smaller village of Yowakha. Like the monastery, every house in Yowakha is decorated with wieners.
The monastery itself is situated atop a nearby round hill, which resembles a human breast. Chimi Lhakhang was erected (sorry) in the year 1499. According to legend, a demonic dog was harassing travelers in a nearby Dochula mountain pass. Then, a Buddhist monk named Drupka Kunley subdued the demon dog with his “Thunderbolt of Flaming Wisdom.” Kunley then trapped the dog inside a rock, and built a chorten, (aka a prayer hall), on that very spot.
You can probably guess what his thunderbolt actually was.
The demonic dog part of the story is obviously myth, but Drupa Kunley was very much a real person. Kunley was a “Nyonpa,” or “Mad One,” which was a type of rogue Tibetan Buddhist monk whose teachings were radically opposed to the mainstream. In Kunley’s case, he preached that you can find enlightenment by having an active sex life.
Kunley would use bawdy songs and raunchy jokes to get his teachings across, and the temple is a monument to his philosophy. He also apparently practiced what he preached–one of his nicknames was “The Saint of 5,000 Women.”
But Chimi Lhakhang wasn’t just a dedication to one man’s obsession with the wang; it was also a statement agains the comparatively stuffy religious attitudes of Kunley’s day. And the statement apparently worked. Kunley’s temple inspired the Bhutanese to use phallic imagery to ward off evil spirits.
To be fair, Kunley is also credited with bringing Tibetan Buddhism to Bhutan, but we all know which one is the bigger accomplishment.
Chimi Lhakhang has stood for over 500 years as a holy place that induces fertility to all who visit. To locals, the penis monastery has been a part of everyday life for centuries. But to outsiders, it’s still very much a novelty. Television and the Internet were banned in Bhutan until 1999, but once they were legalized, Chimi Lhakhang got the fame and attention it rightfully deserves.
Since then, Chimi Lhakhang has become one of Bhutan’s most popular tourist destinations. Couples hoping to have children can receive a blessing from a monk, and the monk will even try to predict the baby’s name. And no visit to Chimi Lhakhang is complete without a bop on the head from a wooden phallus with a silver handle. The temple does still have the original phallus Kunley used for this purpose, but it’s kept locked away from the public.
A tourist visa to Bhutan costs about $250. I’m free at the end of July. Who’s coming with?
h/t: Messy Nessy Chic