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Tibet - Places of Interest

Lhasa the capital city of Tibet at an altitude of 3,650 meters, is situated on the northern banks of the Kyichu River. Lhasa in Tibetan means "Palace of Gods", the (former) residence of the Dalai Lama is the earthly representation of the Celestial Palace of Avaloketeswora, the Buddha of Infinite Compassion whose incarnation in the human form is believed to be Dalai Lama. As Tibet's political, religious and cultural center, it is a city truly blessed by the gods, where life is unhurried, it's people jovial and yet remaining staunchly independent.

Potala Palace
This legendary palace built atop a hill in the capital is synonymous with Tibet. First built in the 7th century as a fortress by Tibet's foremost king, Srongtsen Gampo, it was later expanded to the present size in the 17th century by the 5th Dalai Lama. This 13 storied, 1000-room citadel served as the headquarters of the former 'church state' of Tibet and has been home to successive Dalai Lamas. Since the 18th century, it has served as the winter palace.

The 'Jewel Park ' as it is known in Tibetan, was built in the 18th century and served as the Summer Palace of the Dalai Lamas. The colorful landscaped garden around it used to be a site for picnic gatherings. The palace itself is ornately decorated and adds an atmosphere of peaceful repose.

The Jokhang Temple
Situated in the heart of Old Lhasa, it houses Tibet's most precious religious relics, a golden Shakyamuni Buddha which was brought as a gift by the Chinese Princess Wen Ching on the occassion of her wedding to the Tibetan King, Srongtsen Gampo. Surrounding the Jokhang is the bustling Barkhor marketplace, the social center of Lhasa.

Drepung Monastery
Said to be largest monastery in the world housing over 10,000 monks, it was founded in AD 1416 by the disciple of Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelugpa Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The Second, Third, and Fourth Dalai Lamas lived and were entombed here. Drepung in Tibetan means ' mound of rice'.

Gyantse is a pastoral town 264 Kilometers south west of Lhasa. Untouched by modern expansions, it still retains the charm if a traditional Tibetan town. It made world headlines in 1904 when Colonel Younghusband led a British Expedition to Tibet and defeated the Tibetan army there. As a junction on the principal trade route to India, it used to be known for the excellence of its carpets. This settlement is draped around by an impressive wall presided over by a hilltop fortress.

This is one of the most unique and magnificent buildings in Tibet six stories tall. It has 112 chapels and its walls are adorned with religious paintings. Built in the 15th Century, it has escaped all ravages of battles and the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

Pelkhor Chode Monastery
Located near the Kumbum, it was founded in the 15th century. It has been remarkably well preserved and many of the statues and paintings inside date back to the time of its founding.

Shigatse is the second largest town in Tibet and the capital of Tsang province. It is 354 kilometers west of Lhasa and stands at an altitude of 3180 meters.

Tashilhunpo Monastery
Founded in AD 1447 by Genden Drup, the First Dalai Lama, it is the seat of the Panchen Lama who is second only to the Dalai Lama in Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy. The 5th Dalai Lama declared that his teacher, the Abbot of Tashilhunpo to be a manifestation of the Amitabha Buddha, and thenceforth to be addressed by the title of Panchen Rinpoche. Tashilhunpo has one of the world's largest statues, a 9-storied bronze-gilded statue of the Maitreya Buddha.

Shalu Monastery
Shalu is 19 kilometers southwest of Shigatse. It was a famous Tantric school where yogic practices were taught and perfected. The architecture of Shalu is uniquely Chinese.

Sakya Monastery
Sakya lies 143 kilometers to the southwest of Shigatse. Sakya Monastery, the center of the Sakya order of Tibetan Buddhism, was founded by Konchok Gyalpo in 1073. During the rule of the Sakyapas, the priest-patron relationship between Tibet and China was established. The Sakya order reigned over Tibet for almost a hundred years between the 13th and the 14th century. Many of the priceless images, statues, and scriptures within date back to the time of it’s founding.