Among the important early Drikung leaders in the Kailash region we find Chenga Sherab Jungne (1187-1241), one of the main students of Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon, who out of modesty had refused to become his master’s successor on the throne of Drikung. From 1219 to 1225 Chenga Sherab Jungne lived with a following of 500 monks at Mount Kailash and founded the monasteries Jakyib (bya skyibs) and Darlung (dar lung).
Gyangdrag Monastery is the oldest and most important Drikung monastery in the region. It was founded by Ghuya Gangpa in the beginning of the 13th century. Because it was located so close to the holy places it was called Gyangdrag (rgyang grags), which means „calling distance“. It still is the main Drikung monastery in that area. Ghuya Gangpa organized the spiritual life of his hermits under the supervision of a retreat master (rdor ‘dzin) and controlled the spread of the Drikungpa in the region for 25 years. Tsang Nyon Heruka (gtsang smyon he ru ka, 1428-1507), the famous “Mad Saint” of Tsang, made several pilgrimages to the Kailash region. During his last visit around the year 1500 he stayed for some time at Gyangdrag as the guest of the Drikung Dorzin.
When Denma Kunga Drakpa became the Dorzin at Gyangdrag Monastery around the middle of the 16th century, the monastery was in an advanced state of decay. He practically had to rebuild the monastery and at the same time sent many of his pupils from Western Tibet to study at Drikung. After an invitation by the king of Ladakh he left the Kailash region and established himself in Ladakh.
In the late 17th century Gyangdrag received some support from the 5th Dalai Lama and from the regent Sangye Gyatso. Although funding from governmental sources seems to have ceased after this period, the series of Dorzin continued without interruption until present.
Since the founding of Gyangdrak Monastery, there have been 33 Vajra Holders. The first was Ghuya Gangpa. In 1984 the Ngakpa Wangthang Dorje (dbang thang rdo rje), a native from the Kailash region was installed as the Dorzin at Gyangdrag. In 2007 he was removed from his post by Chinese authorities, accusing him of having erected a statue of Guru Rinpoche without permission.
Gyangdrag Monastery is situated above Darchen. The monastery was rebuilt in 1986. Not far from is the Serlung Retreat Center, which was founded by Dordzin Konchok Gyudzin, a disciple of the 2nd Chetsang Thrinle Sangpo (1656-1718). Thrinle Sangpo had instructed his disciple to establish this monastery on the eastern shore of Lake Manasarovar. After its founding, Serlung Monastery was headed by successive rebirths of the Serlung Tulku. It was destroyed after the Chinese invasion, but has been rebuilt in 1981 by Khenpo Konchog Chopel Rinpoche, who lives there today with a group of monks.
Nyo Lhanangpa (gnyos lha nang pa, 1164-1224), another ripa and important pupil of Jigten Sumgon sent out to Mount Kailash, founded a hermitage in a place called Lhanang (lha nang) from which he took his name. On the eastern side of the mountain in the area where Milarepa fought his famous contest of miracles against Naro Bonchung he established the shrine of Dzutrul Phuk (rdzu ‘phrul phug), “The cave of magical powers”. This cave was the result of the magical powers used by Milarepa and Naro Bonchung to build a shelter in the rock as it was raining very heavily. The current monastery was rebuilt in 1985. There are foot and hand prints on the ceiling of the building and footprints on the roof. The current monastery was rebuilt in 1985. Among the main effigies of the monastery are statues of Shakyamuni Buddha, Guru Rinpoche and Jigten Sumgon. A small group of monks is responsible for the monastery.