located in the south of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
and Qing Hai Province, to
the west of Sichuan and Yunnan province, and adjacent
India and Nepal. The average height of the whole region
is more than 4,000 meters above sea level, for which
Tibet is known as "Roof of the World". The
world highest Qomolanma peak, or the Everest Peak in
Tibet, is as high as 8,848 meters above sea level. The
population is 2.3 million including a variety of ethnic
groups of Tibetan, Monba and Lhota with Lhasa as the
capital city. Across the northern expanse of Tibet,
you can see vast grasslands where horses, cattle and
sheep roam freely. The world's lowest valley, the Grand
Yarlun-tzanpo River Valley lies in east Tibet.
Nearly all Tibetans
follow Tibetan Buddhism, known as Lamaism, with the exception
of approximately 2,000 followers of Islam and 600 of Catholicism.
Tibetan Buddhism was greatly influenced by Indian Buddhism
in its early time, but after years of evolution, Tibetan Buddhism
has developed its own distinctive qualities and practices.
One of the examples is the belief that there is a Living Buddha,
who is the reincarnation of the first, a belief alien to Chinese
is the "roof of the world," then its capital,
Lhasa, is certainly the "city of the sun."
Standing on a plain over 13,000 feet above
sea level, surrounded by towering mountains, Lhasa is
a town bathed in sunlight.
Tibet has suffered fluctuating fortunes over the centuries.
Historical records reveal little about the region before
the seventh century, when King Songzan Ganbu (617-650
A.D.) unified the area and introduced the Sanskrit alphabet.
During the centuries that followed, Buddhism took root
in Tibet, introduced from India into China by pilgrims
traveling the "Silk Road" far to the north.
Buddhism was influenced by the local religion, called
Bon, and developed into a form called Lamaism. By the
10th century, the religious movement began to assert
political leadership as well. In 1573, a reincarnation
of Zongkaba, the founder of the "yellow hat"
sect devoted to religious reform, became the first Dalai
Great changes have taken place in the past 20 years
in Lhasa, where many roads have been built and completed,
a lot of hotels and public welfare buildings were constructed.
The standard of living of the local people has been
improved tremendously. At present, the construction
of the first railway leading from Germu of Qinghai province
to Lhasa is underway and will be completed in 2008,
by then, it will be more convenient for people to visit
Tibet by train. Tourist attractions in Lhasa include
the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, and a number of Buddhist
is a 41-hectare complex constructed during the reign
of Songtsan Gambo, the King of Tibet in the 7th-century.
Built on top of the Red Mountain, Potala Palace served
as a fortress and as the residence of the Dalai Lamas
with nearly 10,000 rooms, and so was the center of both
political and religious power in Tibet, remaining today
an immensely popular pilgrimage site. Divided into White
and Red Palaces, the complex rises 110 m high and extends
360 m across, and was one of the world's tallest buildings.
Rising thirteen stories and containing over a thousand
rooms and some 200,000 images, the palace complex took
the work of more than 7,000 laborers and 1,500 artists
for more than fifty years to complete. Beneath the fortress
are the dungeons where those who ran afoul of the Lamaist
theocracy were imprisoned and tortured. Functioned now
as a museum, this castle-like palace is housed with
the wealth of Buddhist statues, murals, religious scriptures,
and treasures. As a precious legacy of Tibetan culture,
the Potala Palace is a UNESCO-endorsed world cultural
built in 647 as the earliest wood-masonry structure
in Tibet, is dedicated to a statue of Sakyamuni. The
magnificent Temple is situated in the center of Lhasa.
In front of the gate stands a stone tablet from the
Tang Dynasty, bearing both Chinese characters and Tibetan
script. Nearby is the Tang willow tree planted by Princess
Wen Cheng, one of the daughters of the second emperor
Li Shimin in the Tang dynasty, who was married with
the King of Tibet, Songtsan Gambo for the hope of building
up the friendly relations between the regional Tibet
and the central regime of the Tang dynasty. The Monastery
has also possessed with a great collection of cultural
relics dating back to the Tang dynasty, which include
statues of Songtsan Gambo and princess Wen Cheng. The
architectural elements in this monastery as the splendid
four-floor building facing west under a gilded rooftop,
are palpable of the building style of the Tang dynasty,
building in Lhasa is the Drepung Monastery located six
miles north of the city. Standing on a high cliff, its
many tiers leaning into a steep mountain face, the monastery
is built in traditional Tibetan style. Founded in 1416,
it was one of the centers of the "yellow hat"
sect, and in its time was the largest of the three great
monasteries near Lhasa, housing 10,000 lamas. The temples
of the monastery are lavishly decorated with statues
of the Buddha, Zongkaba, and others of the Buddhist
pantheon. The monastery is still open to worshippers.
one of the three largest monasteries of Tibet, sits
at the foot of Hill Tatipu. It is as prestigious as
Ganden monasteries but had a longer history. Sera in
Tibetan means Wild Rose Garden since opulent wild rose
woods once grew around it. In 1414, Jamchen Chojey,
one of Tsong Khapa's disciples, on behalf of Tsong Khapa,
visited Emperor Chengzu of the Ming dynasty, who granted
him a title of Dharma King of Great Mercy as well as
sutras and a set of sandalwood Arhat. In order to preserve
them, Tsong Khapa suggested Jamchen Chojey to build
a monastery to house these treasures. Then Sera monastery
was set up in 1419.
The center of Sera Monastery is the Main Assembly Hall,
occupying a floor space of 1,000 square meters. The
four-storied hall has four chapels in which Arhats,
Manjushri, Tsong Khapa and Chenrezi are enshrined respectively.
The Buddhist sutras Jamchen Chojey brought back from
Beijing is kept in the sutra pigeonhole against the
hall, which is now of great value. Sera Monastery keeps
a collection of murals in perfect, original condition.
Its statues of Maitreya, Bodhisattvas, and Arhats are
very noteworthy. Scriptures written in gold powder,
scroll paintings, tapestry portrait of Jamchen Chojey,
thangkas are typical characteristics of Sera.
Palace (the Summer Palace)
meaning Treasure Park, was first built in the forties
of the 18th century, covering a space of 40 hectares
after continuous expansion by the Dalai Lamas. The Qing
magistrate dispatched to Tibet originally built a palace
for the Seventh Dalai Lama since His Holiness often
visited the place. In 1751, the Seventh Dalai Lama started
to build Kelsang Potrang as his palace where he ruled
and received officials and high ranked lamas. The Fourteenth
Dalai Lama lived in the palace before his new one was
completed. Construction seldom stopped under the reigns
of different Dalai Lamas.
In 1956 the Fourteenth Dalai Lama finished his own palace
- Takten Migyur Potrang, usually called New Summer Palace.
One of the hall called Khamsum Zilnon was originally
a Han style pavilion and later changed into a theater
where the Dalai Lamas watched Tibetan opera. Tsokyil
Potrang is a group of buildings on water. Dalai Lamas
used to read in the palace. The palaces of Golden Lingka
and Chensel Potrang, built in 1920s for the 13th Dalai
Lama, are located at the back of the woods and planted
with various flowers, grasses and trees.
an old and traditional shopping street in the center
of Lhasa. It is also a place where Tibetan culture,
and arts assemble and a place to which a visit must
be paid. Barkhor is the road on which pilgrims tramped
out around Jokhang Temple through centuries. Buddhist
pilgrims walk by body-length kowtow along the street
clockwise every day into deep night. Barkhor Street
is also a marketplace where shaggy nomads, traders,
robed monks and chanting pilgrims join together. Shops
and stalls sell printed scriptures, cloth prayer flags
and other religious vessels, jewelry, Tibetan knives
and ancient coins etc..
Gyantse, is the other major urban center here, most
famous for its stunning KumBum, a place of great religious
and artistic reverence and importance. The summer is
a particularly lively time to visit here when a horse
racing and archery festival takes place in June and
July. Gyantse was an important wool trading post between
Tibet and India in mediaeval times. At the beginning
of the 20th Century Gyantse rose to prominence again
when Younghusband's British expedition took the fort
before marching on to Lhasa. The two things to see here
are the old fort, dating from the mid 1300s, and the
Pelkor Monastery, which contains the Kumbum, a remarkable
building crowned with a golden dome and umbrella, with
chapels radiating outwards from each of its eight levels.
It's the best-preserved building in Tibet of this style
unique to Tibetan architecture. The Monastery was closed
for refurbishment when last heard, but the Kumbum is
certainly a must-see. They are within the same compound.
Monastery & Kubum
Monastery was built in early 15th century. It is situated
in the west of Gyantse Town with mountains flanking
the east, west and north. The unique feature is that
three sects of Buddhism - shaja, Ningma and Guolu are
living harmoniously together under one roof with each
sect possessing 6-7 courtyards in the monastery. There
are various kinds of Thangkas, and a huge bronze statue
of jiangba, the Buddha of thousand hands and thousand
eyes set in the monastery. There is a hall of arhats
made during the Ming Dynasty and they are looked so
vivid and alive. The monastery is the world famous Buddhist
architecture with 9-stories of chapels and over 10,000
Buddhist sculptures. It stands 32 meters high with 108
doors, 77 chambers and countless shrines. The Pagoda
opens 8 doors, which are decorated with relief sculptures
of flying dragons, running lions and walking elephants.
The entire monastery is a spectacular masterpiece of
the ancient Buddhist architecture in Tibetan style.
cultural city and 3,800-metres above the sea level,
Shigartse is the place where Benchen Lamas' residence
of Tashilunpo Monastery is located. The world-famed
Mount Qomolanma (8,848 meters) stands to the south of
the city. The emblem of the city is the Tashilunpo Monastery,
established in 1477, where the fourth Benchen Lama and
his successors resided and conduct administrative activities.
Covering a floor space of 300,000 square meters, the
monastery is enshrined with the world's largest gilded
bronze Buddhist statue, the 26.2-meter-high statue of
lies 2 kilometer west of Shigatse, is the most influential
monastery in Tibet. It was built in 1477 by Gendun Drubpa,
the first Dalai Lama and a most outstanding disciple
of Tsong Khapa. In 1600, the Fourth Banchen Lama started
a large-scale expansion on this building with a space
of 300 thousand square meters. In 1713, the Fifth Banchen
Lama's title and status was finally ascertained by order
of the emperor in Qing dynasty and the monastery became
the seat of Banchen Lama up to present.
of the Main Chanting Hall took 12 years to complete.
It is the earliest building in the monastery. Before
the hall, there is a flagstone as debating courtyard,
where Banchen Lamas used to make religious speeches
to lamas. The courtyard has walls covered by a thousand
Sakyamunis, which were enshrined in the walls. The Main
Chanting Hall, capable of holding 2000 chanting monks.
Chapel was the tallest building in the monastery, 30
meters in height. The chapel lies at the west end of
the monastery, founded in 1914 by the Ninth Banchen
Lama. The chapel houses the world largest brass statue
of Maitreya that is 26.2 meters high. The statue is
seated on a 3.8 meters high lotus throne. A single finger
is 1.2 meters long, while foot is 4.2 meter long. The
statue costs about 280 kilograms of gold, 150 tons of
brass and about 1400 precious gems such as the huge
death of the tenth Banchen Lama in 1989, about 64 million
Yuan in RMB and lots of gold, silver and gems were immediately
allocated by the central government to build his stupa.
In 1993, the 11 meters stupa was completed and the lama's
body was placed inside. Every year on April fourteenth
on Tibetan calendar, gigantic thangkas of Buddha will
be displayed on the wall. In addition the trove of thangkas,
murals and other religious and artistic treasures certainly
will make an indelible impression upon visitors.
Shannan, a prefecture of 3,600 meters above sea level
and with a mild climate in the middle reaches of the
trunk Yarlung Zangbo River, was the cradle of the Tibetans.
Among Shannan's cultural relics are Samye Monastery,
Tombs of Tibetan Kings (Songtsan Gambo), Chang-zhug
Temple, and Yarlung River, a mysterious and breathtaking
national scenic zone that shows Tibet's snow mountains
and glaciers, idyllic pastoral farms, alpine vegetation,
historical sites and folklores.