Lhasa , the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, is located along
the banks of the Lhasa River, a tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo River.
Lhasa ’s history goes back over 1,300 years. Literally translated as
"the sacred place," it has an abundance of sunshine and a reputation
as “the Solar City.” It is a centre of politics, economy, transport and
religious activities in Tibet, and the centre Tibetan Buddhism
There are many important and beautiful places of interest
in Lhasa, such as Potala Palace, Sera Monastery and Jokhang
Monastery. Lhasa's remoteness has helped maintain its original appearance and traditional lifestyle, particularly on Barhkor Street in the old part of Lhasa.
Here, China tourists can find traditional arts and crafts on sale. Despite its height and distance, Lhasa has become much less isolated in recent years; now, flights leave on a regular basis from Lhasa to Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xi'an and Kathmandu. The Qinghai-Tibet and Sichuan-Tibet highways are the main routes to the region.
Potala Palace, the most famous building in the region, was built in
the 640s during the reign of King Songtsan Gampo. Located on
Red Hill, to the west of old Lhasa, this 13-storey palace stands at
116 metres high and has over 1000 rooms. The entire building is
made of stone and wood, with walls averaging 3 metres thick.
Potala Palace is a renowned combination of Chinese palatial
architecture and classical Tibetan architecture. This was where the
Dalai Lama, the head of Tibetan Buddhism, would spend the winter
months. Travellers in China will recognize PotalaPalace as a wonderfully preserved part world cultural heritage.
Legends claim that it hailed during the construction of this
monastery; hence the name Sera, which means "hailstone.” Sera
was the last of the three principal Yellow Sect (Tibetan Buddhist)
monasteries to be built in Lhasa, and the only one of the three not
built into a mountainside. It was completed in 1419 under the
supervision of Shaka Yeshe. Shaka Yeshe was an important teacher
who travelled to Beijing and as far as Mongolia to preach
Buddhism and received the title “Tutor of the Empire.”
Many precious gifts were sent to Sera by the Chinese Emperors of
the time, which have been preserved and can be seen as part of China tour packages. Sera is built with a great sutra chanting hall, a college and 32 sections. It once housed nearly 10,000 monks. Sera has been listed as one of China’s national cultural relics since 1982.
Jokhang Monastery is located in the centre of old Lhasa city and is
a prime seat of Gelugpa (Yellow) Tibetan Buddhism. It was original
built in 647 AD. It is said the site was chosen personally by Tang
princess Wen Chang, the wife of King Songtsan Gampo. Built by
craftsmen from Tibet, China and Nepal, Johkang Monastery displays
a unique compound of architectural styles. Jokhang is the spiritual
centre of Tibet and the holiest destination for all Tibetan Buddhist
Barkhor Street is found in the heart of Lhasa, circling Jokhang
Monastery. Literally "a pilgrim' s inner circuit", Barkhor is the
oldest street in old Lhasa city. Old style Tibetan houses and shops
line the flagstone-paved street selling traditional commodities.
In the past, it was only a circumambulation circuit, where Buddhist
faithful would practice “one step, one kowtow” to show devotion.
Though it has attracted merchants, it still retains its status as a holy
street for Tibetan Buddhists.
Norbulingka, located to the west of Lhasa, is known as the Summer
Palace. Built for the 7th Dalai Lama in 1755, it was where the Lama
would spend the hot season, dealing with affairs of state, resting and
conducting religious activities. In the mid-March every year, the
Dalai Lama would move here until mid-October, at which point he
would return to PotalaPalace. Norbulingka’s garden covers an area
of 46 acres, and the palace comprises 370 rooms of different sizes.
In the garden, people worship Buddha, enjoy leisure time and study
the Tibetan-style palaces.