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Beijing Sichuan Tibet
Arts & Culture l Everest l Ihasa l Monasteries

The nucleus of Tibet at an altitude of 3,600 meters is dominated by the Potala Palace, construction of which was begun in the 7th Century during the reign of Tubo King Songtsen Gampo on top of Marpori, the Red Mountain. The original Potala was destroyed in the 9th Century when the Tubo Kingship broke down. It was rebuilt during the reign of the 5th Dalai Lama and finally completed in 1645, becoming the residence of the Dalai Lamas who were the religious and secular rulers of Tibet as well as the seat of the Tibetan government.

Potala Palace actually consists of 2 palaces, the Red Palace and the White Palace. The entire structure stretches almost 400 meters from east to west and 350 meters from north to south. It soars 120 meters above the Lhasa Valley floor and has thirteen floors with almost a thousand rooms and ceilings supported by more than 15,000 columns.

Two kilometers to the east lies the Jokhang temple, which has become the spiritual center of the city. The main building of the temple is built on a square mandala foundation and dates from the 7th Century. It was built as a shrine for a Buddha (known to the Tibetans as Jobo) statue that the Chinese princess Wen Cheng brought to Lhasa as a wedding gift from the Chinese emperor, hence its name Jokhang, the Hall of Jobo Buddha.

In the western fringe of Lhasa lies the beautiful Norbulinka Park, or Jeweled Garden, in which the Summer Palace of the Dalai Lamas is located. Construction began in the mid 18th Century and it covers an area of 46 hectares.

From the roof of the Jokhang one can take in the postcard magnificence of the Potala as well as the Barkhor (Bakuo), which is a sacred ritual path that ribbons around the Jokhang and Tsuglagkhang. Pilgrims and traders alike crowd onto this 800-meter long path. The hawking of wares takes place alongside the religious prostration of the pilgrims as they tap their foreheads to the ground. Others can be seen continuously turning their prayer hats and travelling monks meditate at the side of the road, offering special prayers in return for donations.


The third largest of the old Tibetan towns, Gyangze sits by the northern bank of the Nyangchu River and is 265 kilometers southwest of Lhasa. A four-hour bus ride from Shigatse, Gyangze is one of the towns in Tibet that still maintains its own ethnic flavors instead of being overwhelmingly Chinese. It lies on the road between Xigaze and Lhasa and on the trading route to India, Sikkim and Bhutan, making it one of the most important trading centers of the past.

There is a fortification on a hill nearby called the Dzong, which is visible from quite a distance away. The main citadel was destroyed in 1905 by an English military expedition.

The Palkhor Tschöde is the most important structure in Gyangze. It is a circle shaped site enclosed by a wall, which used to contain several monasteries belonging to different sects. There is a 32-meter tall dagoba in the center of this site that is known as the Kumbum and is noted for its 10,000 images of the Buddha. It is laid out in the shape of a three dimensional mandala and symbolizes Mount Meru. A structure at the tip of the dagoba is a chapel for the original buddha.

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