Lhasa is the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
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Covering an area of 27,335 square kilometers, Lhasa has a population of 400,000. Lhasa (the Roof of the World) is situated in the middle of Tibet Autonomous Region and middle reaches of the Lhasa River. It is the political, economic, and cultural center of the region. Its industries include electrical power, cement, hide processing, mechanical and electrical equipment, weaved carpet, and flour. There is no fog (pea soup) all the year round and with plenty of sunshine. Therefore, it is called “the Sunlight City.” Of interest to visitors include Potala Palace, Jokhong Monastery, Drepung Monastery, Gandan Monastery, Norbulingka Park (the Summer Palace), and Parknor Street.
The Potala, which in Tibetan means “High Heavenly Realm,” is named after a stone cliff on Cape Comorin at the southern tip of India. It was sacred to the Buddha of Compassion, whim the Indians worshipped as Avalokitesvara and the Tibetans believed to be Chenresik, who passed his spirit into the Dalai Lamas.
Barkhor Street 八廓街
The Tibet Autonomous Region has renovated Barkhor Street, a bustling religious, tourist and commercial center in Lhasa, to transform it into a historical site. The renovation project cost 37.6 million yuan (US $ 4.5 million).
Barkhor Street, located at the foot of the incense-coiling Jokhang Monastery in Lhasa, is renowned as Tibet’s largest market place. With a history of more than 1,300 years, the street has been prospering upon the completion of the Monastery in central Lhasa in 647. In the Barkhor Street, an inch of land is an inch of gold. Vendors from various parts of China and bordering countries have turned the street into an international market. The street was built in the 7th century when the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo decided to construct the monastery. To supervise the project, he brought his servants and family and settled down on the spot. People then built houses on the four sides for Songtsen Gampo and his servants.
Located in the western suburbs of Lhasa, Norbulingka (Norbu means treasure in Tibetan; lingka means garden in Tibetan) was built in 1740s during the reign of the seventh Dalai Lama. Later it was renovated and enlarged and became the Dalai Lama’s Summer Palace. It was here that from April to September each year the Dalai Lama would handle political affairs and hold festive celebrations. Encompassing 360,000 square meters, the park consists of three parts: the Palace district, district in front of the Palace and the forest district. Forests take up about half of the park. Its main buildings are Golden Palace Sutra Hall, and the New Palace constructed in 1954. UNESCO added Norbulingka Park to the List of World Heritage as an extension of the Potala Palace in December 2001.
Jokhang Monastery 大昭寺
In the City of Lhasa, Tibetans and Street by inland tourists call the two-kilometer-long quadrangle street surrounding the Jokhang Monastery Barkhor Street. “Barlhor,” in Tibetan means a circuit taken in a clock-wise direction. The area is unrivalled in Tibet for its fascinating combination of deep religiosity and the market economy. This is both the spiritual heart of Lhasa and the main commercial district for local people. Early every morning scented smoke curls up at the gate of the Jokhang Monastery. Streams of Tibetans take turns performing the kowtow at the entrance. For many elderly Tibetans living in Lhasa, coming to the Monastery every day is the most important part of their lives.
Built in the 7th century the Jokhang Monastery was renovated and expanded several times and has formed a 4-storey large complex.
The Jokhang Monastery is the home of the most precious Buddha images in Tibet, which were brought there by Princess Wencheng (?-680) of the Tang Dynasty, who was married to the great Tibetan king Songstan Gampo. In the main hall of the Monastery is a set of murals showing the arrival of the Tang princess in Tibet. There are four incense burners in front of the monastery. Behind the first two are two enclosures. The larger one harbours the stump of an ancient willow tree allegedly planted by Princess Wencheng and an inscribed stele.
In 822, the Tang imperial court and the Tubo Kingdom formed an alliance aimed at keeping friendship forever. This alliance was engraved in the Han and Tibetan languages on a stone tablet, which still stands in front of the Jokhang Monastery in Lhasa.
UNESCO added the Jokhang Monastery in Lhasa to the List of World Heritage as an extension of the Potala Palace in December 2000.
Gandan Monastery 甘丹寺
About 40 kilometers to the northeast of Lhasa, Gandan was the first Monastery of the Gelugpa order. It has remained the main seat of the major Tibetan Buddhist order ever since. Established in 1409 by Tsong Kha-pa, the revered creator of the Gelugpa order, Gandan is one of the three major Gelugpa monasteries in the region. The others are the Drepung and Sera monasteries. Of all the great monasteries in Tibet, Gandan suffered most during the “cultural revolution” (1966-1976). Most of its buildings including the Assembly Hall, the Golden Tomb of Tsong Kha-pa, the Jiangtse College and the Shrtse College were demolished. Gandan has taken on a completely new look thands to extensive reconstruction in the 1990s. Some 500 monks live in the monastery, of whom, about 200 monks belong to the Shartse College, and the others the Jiangtsw College. The two colleges used to hold chanting gatherings separately. Nowadays, they hold the gatherings together in the Assembly Hall, which is good for them as it makes them more united. Most of the monks in Gandan are from Tibet, with two from Gansu Province, two from Sichuan Province and a dozen from Qinghai Province. Most of the space inside the main assembly hall was occupied by red cushions and clusters of colourful flags hunt down from the ceiling.
More About Lhasa
- Potala Palace Lhasa
Potala Palace Lhasa The Potala Palace in Lhasa Tibet Autonomous Region covers an area of 360,000 square meters, with over 2,000 rooms and 34 Buddha halls.