Exactly 24 years ago today, on 13th May 1999, His Holiness the Dalai Lama opened and consecrated the Tibetan Peace Garden located next to the Imperial War Museum, London, UK.
The Peace Garden was commissioned by Tibet Foundation and built on land kindly provided by Southwark Council. It has been donated to the people of Britain for all to enjoy.
The Tibetan Peace Garden honours one of the principal teachings of His Holiness – the need to create understanding between different cultures and to establish places of peace and harmony in the world. It is hoped that it will create a deepening awareness of His Holiness’s thoughts and words.
This Garden of Contemplation (Samten Kyil) is a place where anyone can come and enjoy a time of peace and tranquillity. For the spiritually minded, this is no longer an ordinary place, because it has been both consecrated and blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to have a spiritual life of its own.
Reminder, symbol, sanctuary, offering, zone of peace and inner content, or simply just a garden – it is our aspiration that you enjoy the Tibetan Peace Garden and find in it a place of inspiration and delight.
The Garden serves to create a greater awareness of Buddhist culture. At its heart is the Kalachakra Mandala (2) associated with world peace. Merely to gaze on this Mandala is said to confer something of its blessing and power to transform, and here, cast for the first time in bronze, it rests as the central focus for the garden.
Near to the Garden’s entrance, is a stone pillar known as the Language Pillar (1). Carved into each side of this pillar is a special message from His Holiness the Dalai Lama (see below) in Tibetan, English, Chinese and Hindi. The pillar design is based on the Sho Pillar, a 9th-century treaty stone in Lhasa acknowledging the rights of both Tibet and China to co-exist in peace. The three carved steps at the top of the pillar represent peace, understanding and love.
The contemporary western sculptures (3, which are set on a north, south, east, west axis), representing the four elements Air, Fire, Earth and Water, and the language pillar with its carving in four languages of a message for the millennium by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, form a symbol of the harmony that can be created between different people and cultures.
Around the Mandala are 8 meditation seats which represent the noble eightfold path: right view, thought, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration.
The garden also stands as a monument to the courage of the Tibetan people and their patient commitment to the path of non-violence and peace. It will remind us too that Tibet’s culture is a treasure of our common heritage, and how vital it is that it be kept alive.
The inner gardens (4) are planted with herbs and plants from Tibet and the Himalayan regions, while the pergola is covered with climbing plants, including jasmine, honeysuckle and scented roses. The surrounding area is landscaped and planted with trees in a collaborative venture that involved the Borough of Southwark and the local community.
Message from His Holiness the Dalai Lama inscribed on the Stone Pillar in four different languages: Tibetan, English, Hindi and Chinese.
The Tibetan Peace Garden has a unique location. The park in which it is built houses the Imperial War Museum and so attracts large numbers of visitors from all over the UK and abroad. It is within walking distance of Waterloo Station and is close to the Houses of Parliament, Lambeth Palace, the London Eye, the South Bank Centre and Tate Modern.
The Tibetan Peace Garden
Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park
St George’s Road
London SE1 6ER
Mainline train: London Waterloo; the garden is around 10 minutes’ walk from the station
Underground: Elephant & Castle (Bakerloo/Northern Lines) / Lambeth North (Bakerloo Line)
Bus: 12,45,53,63,68,159,168, 171,176,188,344 & C10 pass outside
Parking: There are very few parking facilities nearby, and we do not advise driving to the garden. The nearest NCP is at Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, Elephant Rd
The Man Behind the Tibetan Peace Garden – Phuntsog Wangyal
The story of Tibetan Peace Garden is incomplete without the introduction of the key figure behind this peace monument initiative in the heart of London – Phuntsog Wangyal.
Phuntsog Wangyal was a founding trustee of Tibet Foundation, a UK charity that has made a significant contribution towards education, health-care and economic and spiritual development amongst the Tibetan communities across Asia. He served as the charity’s Chairman and Director for many decades.
Born in 1944, Mr Wangyal became a monk and studied Buddhism in Tibet at a young age. In 1959 he escaped amid an arduous journey to India, where he was educated at St Joseph’s College and later at Delhi and Jawaharlal Universities, graduating with an MA and MPhil in Politics and International Relations. Following this he became the Assistant Director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala established by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
In 1973 he came to London where he conducted research on the life of the 13th Dalai Lama and the concept of reincarnation, and taught Tibetan language at SOAS. For many years he served the Tibetan community as a council member and later as its chairman. In 1980 he returned to Tibet as a member of a pivotal delegation sent at the request of His Holiness the Dalai Lama as part of a fact-finding delegation, followed by interviews and accounts of his visit including the BBC documentary series ‘The World About Us’. In 1981 he was appointed the London Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and the Office of Tibet was established.
In 1985 Mr Wangyal founded Tibet Foundation, which has since become one of the most highly respected Tibetan charities to date, offering practical, long-term support to Tibetans living both inside Tibet as well as India and Nepal.
He has also catalysed support for Mongolians in the revival of their Buddhist tradition and practice across Mongolia. In July 2009 he was awarded the “Friendship Medal” by the Mongolian President for the Foundation’s significant contribution to the development of cooperation between Mongolia and the United Kingdom, in recognition of efforts to restore its traditional culture and spiritual heritage.
Mr Wangyal has travelled internationally and written many articles on Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism, including ‘The Influence of Religion on Tibetan Politics’, The Tibet Journal 1975; ‘The Tibetans: two perspectives on Tibetan-Chinese Relations’, Minority Rights Group 1983; ‘Tibet and Development’, Tibet Foundation Newsletter 2004; ‘Tibetan Buddhism’, Encyclopaedia of Peace 2008.
Mr Phuntsog Wangyal received an honorary doctorate at the 2014 SOAS Graduation Ceremony, University of London. The Tibet Foundation was set up in 1985 and closed in 2021.
Tibetan Peace Garden and Lelung Dharma Trust
Before its closure in 2021, the Tibet Foundation approached the Lelung Dharma Trust via-a-vis the Tibetan Peace Garden and the two organisations agreed to ensure the upkeep of this peace initiative in cooperation with the Southwark Council.
On its website, the Lelung Dharma Trust said: “We are committed towards preserving and supporting this important Tibet landmark in London through close coordination with the Southwark Council.” In 2022, a major event was hosted at the Tibetan Peace Garden by the Lelung Dharma Trust. A short video taken during a joint visit to the Tibetan Peace Garden by concerned officials from Southwark Council, Tibet Foundation and Lelung Dharma Trust.
On Wednesday, 24th May from 12.30pm to 1pm, Tashi Lhunpo monks will pray for world peace at the Tibetan Peace Garden as part of the 24th anniversary. All welcome.
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