Dorjee Zong Expansion and Improvement Project

Dorjee Zong is a 700-year-old Tibetan Buddhist nunnery in the remote, high-altitude area of Zanskar in northern India. The ancient nunnery was very basic and has a long tradition of meditating nuns, some famed for reaching high levels of realization.


This is what Dorjee Zong Nunnery looked like before the expansion project started in 2019. The 700-year-old nunnery had one classroom and one main building. Photo courtesy of Olivier Adam.

The Tibetan Nuns Project has been supporting Dorjee Zong since 2009, mainly through our sponsorship program, teachers’ salaries, and also with specific projects like a school bus that now enables the young nuns to continue their education past Grade 5.

In 2019, the nunnery embarked on a major expansion project to improve the facilities at the nunnery. This report page has video and photo updates.

We are extremely grateful to the Betsy Gordon Foundation, the Deep Roots Himalayan Foundation, the members of the Contemplative Studies Program, and all those who have supported the expansion and improvement project.

group photo showing the team from the Tibetan Nuns Project with the two oldest nuns at Dorjee Zong

Nangsa Choedon, Director of the Tibetan Nuns Project in India (middle), Tsering Diki, Assistant Director (left), and Delek Yangchen, one of the Dolma Ling media nuns (right) with the two eldest nuns at Dorjee Zong.

Construction started in 2019, but progress was severely hampered by the pandemic. Also, at this high altitude, the long severe winters reduce the construction window to around five months a year. The remote location was another obstacle for such a major project since many workers had to come from elsewhere and there were extra travel restrictions during the pandemic.

In August 2022, a team from the Tibetan Nuns Project office near Dharamsala, India travelled to Dojree Zong to check on the major construction project and the nuns’ welfare. Here’s a video of their visit showing some of the progress from 2019 to 2022.

When this video was made, Dorjee Zong was home to 20 nuns – 13 young nuns and 7 elder nuns. The eldest two were both 90 years old. The older nuns live at the ancient nunnery on the hilltop and spend most of their time reciting mantras and circumambulating the sacred site. They also take care of their field and greenhouse to stock up supplies for the harsh winters. The younger nuns live and study in the lower and newer part of the nunnery.

Here’s another video made in the autumn of 2023, showing further progress on the expansion and improvement project. Unfortunately, it does not show the new solar lighting and heating project that is part of the improvements being made.

Originally, the plan was to have separate school blocks, staff blocks, and office blocks. But, instead of building separate blocks, the construction committee decided to have a two-story building and a three-story building because it was more cost-effective and would also be warmer, maximizing the sunny building location.

Here are more photos showing the expansion project and its impact.

Old and new Dorjee Zong buildings
The old part of Dorjee Zong is on the hilltop on the left and the new school and other parts of the nunnery are lower down. The pandemic and the short building season at this high altitude have posed challenges.

traditional kitchen at Dorjee Zong Nunnery in the Himalayas

The old traditional kitchen at Dorjee Zong Nunnery. The nunnery is one of the oldest centers in pursuit of monastic education in Zanskar.

Girls in the Himalayas are generally given far less education than boys. Girls are often removed from school as early as Grade 4 if they are sent at all. The nunnery educates both lay girls and nuns. It gives them a chance for education that they would not otherwise have.

two young nuns at math class at Dorjee Zong Nunnery Zanskar

Math class. Lay girls and young nuns study at the nunnery up to Grade 5 after which they take the TNP-funded school bus 6 miles to continue their education.

Girls study up to Grade 5 at the nunnery, after which they travel by school bus for further schooling. The school bus was funded in 2019 by Tibetan Nuns Project donors and is also helping children from the local village attend school.

Nuns quarters at Dorjee Zong Nunnery in Zanskar Tibetan Nuns Project

Nuns’ quarters in the new housing block at Dorjee Zong. Before 2019, the buildings at this 700-year-old nunnery were very basic. There was just one classroom and one main building that was used for everything.

new dining hall at Dorjee Zong nunnery

The new dining hall has been designed in the local style with mats and low tables.

life at Dorjee Zong nunnery in Zanskar prayers before breakfast

Prayers before breakfast. The nunnery has two cooks who prepare meals for all residents at the school. The food is healthy and vegetarian.

one of the new classrooms at Dorjee Zong Nunnery in Zanskar

One of the bright new classrooms during construction. In the past, the nuns at Dorjee Zong did not have the opportunity to engage in rigorous studies, but their education program is improving.

new building at Dorjee Zong Nunnery in Zanskar

This photo of the side of one of the new building at Dorjee Zong shows the traditional carpentry work used for the windows and doors.

The nuns have been able to get a water connection with the help of the local government. This is very beneficial for the elder nuns as well as for the school. A water storage tank is being set up at the nunnery.

Thank you so much for your support of the nuns!