Lhasa, which means "Land of the Gods",
is the heart of Tibet. Over 1,300 years old,
it sits in a valley alongside the Lhasa River.
Around the Jokhang and the Barkhor. traditionally
dressed Tibetans engage on a kora (a clockwise
journey around the Jokhang, the major Buddhist
shrine), often spinning prayer wheels. Monks
clad in robes and yellow hats are seen amongst
the brightly dressed Tibetans in garments
that compliment their ruddy complexion.
The Western end of Lhasa is more Han in character
(i.e. Han Chinese from the east of the country).
Founded in 1419 by Sakya Yeshe, a disciple
of Tsong Khapa, Sera Monastery is one of
the great three Gelukpa university monasteries
of Tibet. It is one of the best preserved
monasteries in Tibet, where several hundred
monks live and study within its whitewashed
walls & golden roofs. The Sera Monastery
is the last of the three principal Yellow
Sect monasteries built in Lhasa. The setting
itself is beautiful with cobbled alleyways,
temples and colleges. The highlight of visiting
Sera Monastery is watching monks debating
inside the shady courtyard behind the main
temple. Every day, hundreds of red-robed
monks assemble in small groups and practice
their debating skills.
Situated in the centre of old Lhasa, the
1300 year old Jhokhang Temple is possibly
the most sacred shrine in Tibet. The golden-roofed
Jokhang Temple was built in commemoration
of the marriage of Tang princess Wen Cheng
to King Songsten Gampo (617-650, the 33rd
king of Tibet), and houses a pure gold Buddha
which was brought to Tibet by the princess.
The Jokhang Temple had been restored and
expanded many times from the Yuan dynasty
to the Qing dynasty, until today's size.
The Barkor is a maze of narrow cobbled streets
and the central market of Lhasa. It’s
extremely interesting to sit in a café,
observing the Barkhor and watching the pilgrims
as they circumambulate the Jokhang Temple,
stopping regularly to peruse the merchandise
at the stalls lining the route.
It's said that in 647, the first Tibetan
King Songtsen Gampo (617 - 650) built the
Jokhang Temple. Due to its magnificence,
it quickly attracted thousands of Buddhist
pilgrims. As a result, a trodden path appeared
which became known as Barkhor Street. Even
today many pilgrims hold their prayer wheels
whilst walking clockwise from dawn to dark.
Some pilgrims progress body-lengths by body-lengths
along the street on their elbows and knees.
Many, including youngsters walk miles to
get here to express their piety.
Self guided tour of the Potala Palace which
dominates the city of Lhasa. (our guide wasn’t
qualified to take us around!). It was named
after Mount Potala, an important mountain
in Buddhist traditions. This spectacular
building was the chief residence of the Dalai
Lamas until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala,
India after an invasion and failed uprising
in 1959. Today the Potala Palace has been
converted into a museum by Chinese authorities.
It contains numerous grand state rooms and
many important chapels. The main building
is divided into 2 sections –the Potrang Karpo ('White Palace')
and the newer Potrang Marpo ('Red Palace')
that was added between 1690 and 1694 and
got its name from a hill on Cape Comorin
at the southern tip of India.
There has been a palace on this site since
the 5th or 6th century, but the present palace
was constructed in the 17th century. The
Palace buildings stand 13 stories high and
contain over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines
and 200,000 statues. These tower 117m above
Marpo Ri, which means "Red Hill",
and more than 300m above the valley floor.
Tradition says that the three main hills
of Lhasa represent the "Three Protectors
NorbulingKa means ‘Jewel Park’ and was established
as the summer palace of the Dalai Lamas by
the 7th Dalai Lama, Kalsang Gyatso in 1754.
The area used to be wasteland with wild animals,
weeds and scrub which the Seventh Dalai Lama
liked and often visited, and, as a result,
the Qing magistrate had a palace built. Years
later, Kelsang Potrang was built by order
of the Seventh Dalai Lama. Later it was used
as the Summer Palace for successive Lamas,
where they solved the political problems
and held festive celebrations.
The Drepung Monastery was founded in the 14th century, and was
once the largest in the world, with a population
of around 10,000 monks. Now that figure is
down to several hundred, but there is still
much of interest to see as it was left relatively
unscathed during the Cultural Revolution.
Located at the foot of Gambo Utse Mountain
it is considered to be the most important
monastery of Gelugpa in Tibetan Buddhism.
The most well known feature of the monastery
is its large white pagodas. The monastery's
buildings are centered around them. Every
year the Drepung Monastery unravels the largest
Thangka in the world on the hill overlooking
The monastery is composed of 4 Zhacangs,
functioning as the sutra-learning places
and the subordinate organization. Several
courtyards in the dense forests on the grounds
there are used for monks to debate on
the sutras. The courtyards sites are always
chosen near Zhacang and various trees are
grown. After enduring the debating period
in both Zhacang and the entire monastery,
the winner will obtain the qualification
to attend the test for the senior degree