|Lhasa Travel Information|
Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, covers an area of 544 square kilometers and is "The Land of Gods" in Tibetan, sits on the north bank of River Lhasa, a tributary of the Yarlung Tsangbo River, at an altitude of 3,700 meters. It has a history of over 13 centuries. With more than 3,000 hours of sunshine annually, Lhasa is famed as " the City of Sunshine". It is the capital of Tibet Autonomous Region and the center of Tibet's political, economic, cultural and religious activities. There are many historic sites and famous relics in the city proper and its suburbs, among which the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery and Gandan Monastery are world famous.
Lhasa is rightly one of the most featured and dreamt-about cities in the world. This is not only because of its remoteness, its high altitude at 3,650 meters (11,975 feet) means limited accessibility, but also because of its impressive heritage of over a thousand years of cultural and spiritual history that has helped to create the romantic and mysterious Tibetan religion.
Differing from the inland cities and other places in Tibet, Lhasa is unique with an allure all of its own. In the Tibetan language, Lhasa means the Holy Land or the Buddha Land. It is the center of Tibet's politics, economy and culture. The city has also been appointed as one of the 24 historical and cultural cities of China. The splendor and grandeur of the Potala Palace in Lhasa remains a world-famous symbol of the enigmatic power of politics and religion in this region.
As the beautiful capital city of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Lhasa is situated in the South Central part of the region, on the North bank of the Kyichu River (Lhasa River) in a mountain-fringed valley. This ancient sprawling city, settled 1,300 years ago, covers 30,000 square kilometers (11,583 square miles), with a population of 400,000, of which 87 percent are Tibetans. The urban population is 180,000.
Tourist resources are plenty, good hotels, tasty restaurants, travel agencies, Chinese department stores and supermarkets, in some parts of the city, you may find no difference to other Chinese cities, but the Tibetan influence is still strong and evident, especially around the old quarters near Barkhor.
The Eastern end of Lhasa is more prominently traditional Tibetan, focusing on the area around the Jokhang and the Barkhor. Traditionally dressed Tibetans engaged on a kora (a clockwise journey around the Jokhang, the major Buddhist shrine), often spinning prayer wheels are a common sight in that area. The Western end of Lhasa is more Chinese in character (i.e. Han Chinese from the east of the country). It is busy and modern, and many ways a surprise to many tourists. It is there one finds most of the infrastructure, such as banks and contact with officialdom.
Generally the period from March to October is the best time to visit Tibet. Since Lhasa is located at such a high altitude it is wise to be prepared before starting your journey. Generally speaking, due to the large temperature differences during any given day in Tibet, warm clothes should be taken to keep away the cold. However, because it also receives a great deal of sunshine, sunglasses, suntan oil, and a sun hat are indispensable items if you're traveling anywhere in Tibet.
According to ancient mythology the Yarlung valley - not Lhasa - is the homeland of the Tibetan people. The first Tibetan king stepped off a heavenly ladder onto earth not in Lhasa, but here. The Yarlung valley was also the kingly seat of the first Tibetan kings as well as their burial site. This being the case, why is Tibet's capital at Lhasa rather than in the Yarlung valley?
As with many aspects of Tibet's culture, the answer lies in her religious life. For Tibet's original Buddhist temple, dating from the seventh century, was Lhasa's Jokhang Temple , still found today pulsating at the heart of the Old Quarter. This institution, contemporaneous with the first Potala Palace , heralds Buddhism's first insemination and dissemination in a flourishing Tibetan empire stretching from western China to Nepal, Bhutan and northern India. Though its political fortunes would wax and wane, Lhasa - "the place of the Gods" - would forever thus be associated with the birth of Tibetan Buddhism . It is this birthright that would maintain Lhasa's prominence through subsequent centuries of bitter regional and religious conflict.
So it was that in the fifteenth century the ascendant Gelug monastic sect , leading a puritanical Buddhist revival in Tibet, established its three stronghold monasteries, Ganden , Drepung & Sera , in the vicinity of Lhasa. The scholarly achievements and political savvy of this sect eventually pushed Lhasa once more to center stage. Two centuries later, under the leadership of the new paramount leader of Tibet, the Great Fifth Dalai Lama , Lhasa was instituted the religious and political capital of Tibet. In 1645 the Potala Palace was re-constructed on Red Hill and the Jokhang Temple greatly expanded. Although some wooden carvings and door lintels of the Jokhang Temple date to the seventh century, the oldest of Lhasa's extant buildings, such as amidst the Potala Palace, the Jokhang and some of the monasteries and properties in the Old Quarter date to this second flowering in Lhasa's history.
The Potala Palace, uniting the political and religious roles of the Dalai Lama, neatly symbolizes the symbiotic relationship of Lhasa's religious and secular roles. This inter-dependent mapping is also seen in the routes of the city's kora or pilgrimage routes. The innermost pilgrimage route or Nangkhor is a circuit along the inside perimeter of the Jokhang Temple. The Barkhor , the best known, follows the circumference of the Jokhang Temple past other monasteries, temples and incense burners of the Old Quarter. And the last, the Lingkhor , circumambulates the city's former outer limits.
Although the Yarlung valley is indeed the mythological and historical root of the Tibetan nation, the primacy of Buddhism within the fabric of Tibetan culture has ensured that Lhasa supersedes it as the spiritual and political capital of Tibet.
In 1271, Kublai, a grandson of Genghis Khan, conquered the Central Plain, founded the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), and made Dadu (today's Beijing) the capital. Kublai wrote finis to the centuries-long situation in which many independent regimes existed side by side, and formed a united country that brought Xinjiang, Tibet and Yunnan under its sway. During the Song-Yuan period, the "four great inventions" in science and technology of the Chinese people in ancient times-papermaking, printing, the compass and unpowder-were further developed, and introduced to foreign countries, making great contributions to world civilization.
In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang established the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in Nanjing, reigning as Emperor Taizu. When his son and successor Zhu Di (r. 1360-1424) ascended the throne, in 1360, he built and expanded the palaces, temples, city walls and moat in Beijing on a large scale. In 1421, he officially moved the capital to Beijing. During his reign, he dispatched a eunuch named Zheng He to lead a fleet of many ships to make seven far-ranging voyages. Passing the Southeast Asian countries, the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Maldives Islands, Zheng He explored as far as Somalia and Kenya on the eastern coast of Africa. These were the largest-scale and longest voyages in the world before the age of Columbus.
The Manchus of northeast China established the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) in 1644, under the leadership of Nurhachi. Kangxi (r. 1661-1722) was the most famous emperor of the Qing Dynasty. He brought Taiwan under Qing rule, and resisted invasions by tsarist Russia. To reinforce the administration of Tibet, he also formulated the rules and regulations on the confirmation of the Tibetan local leaders by the Central Government. He effectively administered over 11 million sq km of Chinese territory.
|Geography and Climate||
Lhasa and the prefecture covers an area of close to 30,000 km2 (12,000 sq mi). It has a central area of 544 km2 (210 sq mi) and a total population of 500,000; 250,000 of its people live in the urban area. Lhasa is home to the Tibetan, Han, and Hui peoples, as well as several other ethnic groups, but overall the Tibetan ethnic group makes up a majority of the total population.
Located at the bottom of a small basin surrounded by mountains, Lhasa has an elevation of about 3,600 metres (11,812 ft) and lies in the centre of the Tibetan Plateau with the surrounding mountains rising to 5,500 metres (18,000 ft). The Kyi River (or Kyi Chu), a tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo River), runs through the city. This river, known to local Tibetans as the "merry blue waves,", flows through the snow-covered peaks and gullies of the Nyainqêntanglha mountains, extending 315 km (196 mi), and emptying into the Yarlung Zangbo River at Quxu, forms an area of great scenic beauty.
View of the main road in LhasaDue to its very high altitude, Lhasa has a cool, dry climate with frosty winters. It enjoys 3,000 hours of sunlight annually and is sometimes called the "sunlit city" by Tibetans.
Lhasa has an annual precipitation of 400 millimetres (16 in) with rain falling mainly in July, August and September. The rainy season is widely regarded the "best" of the year as rains come mostly at night and Lhasa is sunny during the daytime.
Temperature; Daily average (January) -1.2oC, 29.8oF; (July) 16.4oC, 61.5oF
In Tibet, you find modern dressing like jeans and short shirt as in any other Chinese cities.
The religion is Buddhism and their monks are called the Lamas. The people hold the Lamas in high respect and most families will be happy to have children trained in Temples to be Lamas.
Lamas take upon themselves to spread the teaching of Buddha and officiating religious ceremonies.
People turn to the Lamas for spiritual as well advices on all matters whenever they have difficulyies.
Competitive industry together with feature economy play key roles in the development of Lhasa. With the view to maintaining a balance between population growth and the environment, tourism and service industries are emphasised as growth engines for the future.
Agriculture and animal husbandry in Lhasa are considered to be of a high standard. People mainly plant highland barley and winter wheat. The resources of water conservancy, geothermal heating, solar energy and various mines are abundant.
There is widespread electricity together with the use of both machinery and traditional methods in the production of such things as textiles, leathers, plastics, matches and embroidery. The production of national handicrafts has made great progress.
The tourism industry now brings significant business to the region, building on the attractiveness of the Potala Palace, the spectacular Himalayan landscape together with the many wild plants and animals native to the high altitudes of Central Asia. Many of Lhasa's rural residents practice traditional agriculture and animal husbandry. Lhasa is also the traditional hub of the Tibetan trading network. For many years, chemical and car making plants operated in the area and this resulted in significant pullution, a factor which has changed in recent years. Copper, lead and zinc are mined nearby and there is ongoing experimentation regarding new methods of mineral mining and geothermal heat extraction.
Lhasa has many special local products. They are Tibetan Thangka, Tibetan silver ornaments, yak wool, Dzi bead, aweto, milk products, Tibetan liquor and Lhasa sweet tea as well as various handicrafts and Tibetan medicines.
Tibetan Thangka is a sort of scroll painting. It has distinctive ethnic features, strong religious flavor and unique artistic style, and has been highly prized by the Tibetan people. Some of the Thangka has many colorful and charming portraits of Buddhas, while some reflect the Tibetan history and folk customs. The organization of Tibetan Thangka is well knit, well rounded, balanced and changeable. Thangka has varieties of patterns. There are colored drawing Thangka and printing Thangka besides embroidery, brocade (barbola), silk tapestry and pearl ones.
Tibetan silver ornaments
Dzi bead is known as “Dzi” in Tibetan, according to the ancient legends, Dzi beads can not only drive evil, protect people from disaster, stars (and sun and moon) and the eight kinds of spiritual beings, but also protect bodies, produce power and benevolent rule, and gain good reputation. The occurrence of Dzi bead can date back to 3000 years ago. In ancient time, Dzi bead was called god bead. The design and shape of Dzi bead are deemed to be different symbols and the effectiveness to cultivate different supernatural powers. Dzi bead can be divided into weathered Dzi bead and authentic Dzi bead, including the varieties of “sun and moon”, ornamental sceptre, “heaven and earth”, Nectar and so on. All Dzi beads contain precious and rare mineral elements, that is, the effectiveness and magnetic field, etc. They have the power of making people find a way of treading through treacherous waters and gaining luck and blessings. What’s more, authentic pure Dzi bead is also well known as “genuine Dzi bead”. It is often called Dzi bead for short. Dzi beads are divided into “pure Dzi bead” and “Chong Dzi bead”. Tibetans think it good luck to own a Dzi bead. And those who once have one Dzi bead means the endless good luck is coming. Therefore, Tibetan people regard pure Dzi bead as the mascot of god, and pressure it as their own lives.
Aweto is not what people think to be an insect in winter and become grass in summer. However, it is the parasitism of fungus in insect called Chinese caterpillar fungus.
The insects for aweto to live in are aweto hepialid moths, which usually grow in brush woods and meadows at the shady or semi-shady slopes with an altitude of 3,000-5,000m, as insect, aweto hepialid moths have a complete life cycle, including four statuses: ovum, larva, nymph and moth (namely the imago).
The aweto fungi move into the larva body of aweto hepialid moths in the first twenty days of September each year, they spread all over the months. And cohere together with soil. In the last ten days of September, the head of the parasitical larva body develops a stroma of one centimeter high, living through the winter in the frozen earth. At the beginning of May the next year, the stromatic awetos grow out of the earth. Finally, in the last ten days of June, the stroma becomes obese, and the insect body underground gradually rots and becomes empty. And then it becomes useless in medicine. So the best time to collect awetos is from the last ten days of May to the last ten days of June each year.
Milk products are the important food of Tibetan. The Tibetans always keep them at home or take them with themselves when going outside for food. In Tibet, where there are few between-meal nibbles, the adults always give children milk scrap as between-meal nibble.
Others Special Products
Handicrafts: the folk handicraft industry of Tibet has a long history, multiple varieties and unique style; carpet, pulu, Tibetan waist knife, Tibetan clothes, Tibetan cap, wool-weaved carpet, wood bowl, pottery and ornaments are the souvenirs welcome by tourists at home and from abroad.
Tibetan carpet is mainly archaized carpet, which is said to have a history of 600 years. Tibetan carpet is uniquely weaved with bright and harmonious colors, which are not easy to fade while being washed. Its surface feels soft and exquisite. The carpet is durable in addition to its strong national feature of design, which adds more value of appreciation and collection. Pulu is transliterated from Tibetan, which is actually woolen weaved artificially, with many colors of black, red and green. It is the main material for making clothes, shoes and caps, and the clothing made of it is everlasting and warm.
Gold and silver wares are also traditional Tibetan handcraft. Gold and silver wares generally include ornaments such as bracelet, ring, necklace and headwear, and household articles such as flagon, cup, scoop, chopstick and bowl. Skilled craftsmen can make silver wares mounted with various vivid designs such as phoenix, tiger and lion.
Tibetan knife is favored by tourists at home and abroad because of its fine workmanship, sharp edge and unique style.
Tibetan incense is also a sort of very good tour souvenir, and Tibetan people use it to worship Buddha, drive evils away and conduct religious activities. There are many sorts of Tibetan incenses in market, and “Guolenieaxiang” is the most famous and precious. “Guolenieaxiang” has pure and strong aroma when stored in wardrobe, it can make not only clothes aromatic but also can protect the clothing from any insect. Some Tibetan incense composed of special elements can prevent and cure infections and epidemics, etc.
Tibetan medicine is a unique Tibetan pharmacological science system that is formed during the course of their struggle against the nature and various diseases. It has a history of 2000 years or more, and many Tibetan medicines have good curative effect on some diseases such as cardiovascular disease and tumor; “pearl seventy”, “momozhiqi”, “zhifanshiwu”, “alpine snow lotus herb”, “rhodiola root”, “musk” and so on are rare Tibetan medicines. Generally, these medicines can be procured in ordinary drugstores or tourism stores.
Lhasa’s catering business is developing. Besides Tibetan diet, all styles of cooking including Chinese, Indian, Nepalese and western food can all be enjoyed here. Tibetan diet, Sichuan cuisine, northwest wheaten food, northeast cuisine is most typical. Tibetan diet, rich in variety, is mainly made up of beef and mutton. Don’t eat too much the first time in case of dyspepsia. If you are not used to the buttered tea, you can drink sweet milk tea. Highland Barley Wine is not strong but too much taken will result in deep sleep; so, be sure not to drink too much. When eating some dishes, such as raw meat pulp, you should eat some garlic. In some small restaurants, a dish and a soup just cost about RMB 10 yuan. And the northwest hand-pulled noodles are rather cheap. Nourishing Thenthuk (Tibetan noodles) with bone soup cost only RMB 4 yuan. Generally, the level of consumption on food is higher than that of inland. For tour group, the standard cost is RMB 50-100 yuan a day for each.
Beef and mutton
Mashed yak meat
According to the region's authorities, 1.1 million people visited Tibet in 2004. Chinese authorities plan an ambitious growth of tourism in the region aiming at 10 million visitors by 2020; these visitors are expected to be mostly ethnic Chinese. Proponents of greater Tibetan autonomy are concerned that the increase in tourism will lead to an erosion of the indigenous culture of Tibet; in particular, these proponents have stated that renovation around historic sites, such as the Potala Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are creating a jarring "Disney-like" degradation of the sacred site.
The Potala Palace is located in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region. It was named after Mount Potala, the abode of Chenresig or Avalokitesvara. The Potala Palace was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama 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 the Chinese.
The building measures 400 metres east-west and 350 metres north-south, with sloping stone walls averaging 3 m. thick, and 5 m. (more than 16 ft) thick at the base, and with copper poured into the foundations to help proof it against earthquakes. Thirteen stories of buildings – containing over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and about 200,000 statues – soar 117 metres (384 ft) on top of Marpo Ri, the "Red Hill", rising more than 300 m (about 1,000 ft) in total above the valley floor. Tradition has it that the three main hills of Lhasa represent the "Three Protectors of Tibet." Chokpori, just to the south of the Potala, is the soul-mountain (bla-ri) of Vajrapani, Pongwari that of Manjushri, and Marpori, the hill on which the Potala stands, represents Chenresig or Avalokiteshvara.
Located in the centre of old Lhasa city, the Johkang Monastery was first built in 647AD. It is the prime seat of the Gelugpa (Yellow) of the Tibetan Buddhism.
In 643AD, eighteen-year-old Princess Wencheng in Tang Dynasty brought with her a life-sized statue of twelve year old Sakyamuni which is considered as the most precious one among the three life-sized statues of Sakyamuni in the world.
Ramoche Monastery was constructed to house the statue by Songtsen Gampo. He also built the Johkang Monastey for Nepalese Princess Khidzun. Subsequently, the statue of Sakyamuni from the Ramoche Monastery was transferred to the Jokhang Monastery and with it Jokhang Monastery became the centre of worship.
All the houses along the street are stores. All kinds of fantastic commodities show us all aspects of the Tibetan life. Such as: Thangkas, copper Buddha, prayer wheels, butter lamps, prayer flags with sutras, beads, Tibetan joss sticks, cypress, etc. Household goods in shops are in abundant, such as: cushion, Pulu, aprons, leather bag, harness, snuff bottles, steels, Tibetan-style quilts, Tibetan-style shoes, clasp knives, Tibetan-style hats, butter, butter pots, wooden bowls, Highland Barley Wine, sweet milk tea, milk residue, air-dried beef and mutton, etc. All kinds of tourist products, cheap but good, can be found in the 1,000-meter-long street.
Bakhor Street is a human landscape miniature of Lhasa, even in the whole Tibet. The old circumambulation circuit is always crowded with pilgrims from everywhere. Some come along the road by performing the body-long kowtows, some come by truck. Some are monks, and some are businessmen from Kham. In a word, here you will find people from all over Tibet. You can enjoy different dresses, and languages. Even the similar-looking dresses of the monks vary depending on the different religions. Bakhor Street is the window to view the Tibetan area, which is silently telling the history of Lhasa.
The Sera Monastery is the representative monastery of the Gelugpa of the Tibetan Buddhism. It lies on the southern slope of the Serawoze Mountain in the northern suburbs of Lhasa. The monastery was built by SagyaYexei, one of the disciples of Tsongkhapa who was the founder of Gelugpa of the Tibet Buddhism in 1419. It is one of the six main monasteries of the Gelugpa of the Tibetan Buddhism. As one of the three main monasteries of Lhasa, it is here that the monks “famous daily debates” take place.
Location: It is located in the southern slope of the Serawoze Mountain of the northern suburb of Lhasa. Some people believe it means “hailstone”, while others believe it means “raspberry”, the full name of the monastery is “Sera Thekchen-ling Monastery”.
NorbuLingka is named the Summer Palace, located west of Lhasa. The beautiful garden was first built in the middle 18th century. That’s where they deal with affairs and hold religious activities. The garden covers an area of 46 acres, with 370 rooms of different sizes. In the garden people worship Buddha, spend their holiday, and study the Tibetan-style palaces.
Located about 1km south of the Potala Palace - The Seventh Dalai Lama constructed the first summer palace in 1755 and each successive ruler added his own buildings. Norbulingka is now undergoing complete restoration. Presently, the complex contains a small zoo, botanical gardens, and a mansion.
Ganden monastery is the greatest and the oldest of the six Gelug Sect’s monasteries, which is called one of “the three principal monasteries” (the other two are Dreprung Monastery and Sera Monastery). At its peak, it had a registration of more than 4,000 monks.
Tsong Khapa, founder of Gelug Sect, established it as the first Gelug monastery in 15th century when he carried out the religious reform in Tibet. The full name of Ganden monastery is Xizhuzhuenshengzhou in Chinese. Some scholars call it as “Jushan”or “Jile” monastery. In 1733, Emperor Yongzhen of Qing dynasty bestowed the name “Yongtai”. And Gandenpai (Gelug Sect’s original name) which means exhortation, also named after the Ganden monastery.
Location: Set up by the Gelug sect’s founder Tsong Khapa in the 7th year of Yongle (in Ming dynasty), the Ganden monastery lies in Lhatse County, 57 kilometers east of Lhasa, the Wangbori Mountain with the altitude of 3,800 meters. Besides its typical Tibetan style, it is three times as large as Potala.
Drepung Monastery lies in west of Lhasa under Mt. Gambo Utse, clustered round by the black mountain, its white grand buildings shining under the sunlight. Built in 1416, it is considered as one of the largest monasteries in the six principle monasteries of Gelu Sect in China. Drepung Monastery used to be the living palace of Dalai Lamas before the reconstruction of Potala palace (after the 5th Dalai Lamas was bestowed by Qing emperor Qianlong).
The History of Tibetan Culture Exhibition incorporates superb examples of several thousand years of Tibetan history, politics, 1 religion, cultural arts, and customs. It 'takes I Tibetan history as the main thread and Tibetan culture as the center' in exhibiting the long history of the Tibetan people and their vast and deep culture. At the same time most of the historical objects also express the fact that Tibet is an inalienable part of Chinese territory.
This exhibit displays around 1,000 precious objects, in a space totaling around 3,000 square meters and with an exhibition line of around 600 meters. The contents are divided into pre-history culture, indivisable history, culture and arts, and people's customs.
There are night spots featuring singers and dancers in traditional costume singing English, Chinese, Tibetan, and Nepalese songs. Many bars have live music although limited in the range of drinks are quite limited.
Lhasa is a slow moving city where you can spend hours enjoying the atmosphere in the bar. You can meet new friends there.
Some of the bars are Ganglamdo, Frontier Perspective, Majiami, Backpacker, National Music Country Bar Street
It is possible to visit Lhasa on 3-7 day tours from Kathmandu, Nepal, but there have been reports of tours that do not allow enough time for visitors to adjust to the dramatic altitude change resulting in some travelers sufferring altitude sickness being left off along the way (without any refund, of course). You can choose from the options fly-in and fly-out, drive-in and fly-out, etc. Fly-in fly-out comes at a small extra cost and offers the most comfort and safety.
Chinese Standard Time (Beijing) is used in Tibet, which is 8 hours ahead (+) of GMT and 2 hours 15 minutes ahead of Nepal. However, it is not uncommon for Western climbing groups to keep on Nepali time since this better coincides with the expected times of sunrise and sunset.
Non-Chinese nationals are required to obtain a special permit to visit Tibet. Individual permits are hard to obtain, group permits (at least 5 person) are easier. Travel agents from Kathmandu are very good in obtaining one and also a Chinese visa for you in very short time (one day or two) when you book a trip.
International flights are available to Kathmandu, Nepal and Hong Kong.
Five trains arrive at and depart from Lhasa railway station each day. Train numbered T27 takes 47 hours, 28 minutes from Beijing West, arrives in Lhasa at 20:58 every day. The ticket costs 389 yuan for 'hard seat', or 813 yuan for a lower 'hard sleeper', 1262 yuan for a lower 'soft sleeper'. T28 from Lhasa to Beijing West departs at 08:00 and arrives in Beijing at 08:00 on the third day, taking 48 hours. There are also trains from Chengdu, Chongqing, Lanzhou, Xining, Guangzhou, and Shanghai. Initially the large altitude difference has caused problems on this route, giving passengers altitude sickness. To counter this, extra oxygen is pumped in through the ventilation system, and personal oxygen masks are available.
|Map of Lhasa|