Lhasa is the administrative capital and a district-level city of Tibet Autonomous Region, Peoples Republic of China. It is the second most densely populated city on the Tibetan Plateau, after Xining, and at an altitude of 3,490 metres (11,450 ft), Lhasa is one of the highest cities in the world. The city contains many culturally significant Tibetan Buddhist sites such as the Potala Palace, Jokhang temple and Norbulingka palaces, many of which are located in Chengguan District, the city seat.
Lozang Gyatso, the Great Fifth Dalai Lama, started the construction of the Potala Palace in 1645 after one of his spiritual advisers, Konchog Chophel (died 1646), pointed out that the site was ideal as a seat of government, situated as it is between Drepung and Sera monasteries and the old city of Lhasa. It may overlay the remains of an earlier fortress, called the White or Red Palace, on the site built by Songtsen Gampo in 637. Today, the Potala Palace is a museum.
The building measures 400 metres east-west and 350 metres north-south, with sloping stone walls averaging 3 meter thick and 5 meter (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.
Zuglagkang is located on Barkhor Square in Lhasa. For most Tibetans it is the most sacred and important temple in Tibet. It is in some regards pan-sectarian, but is controlled by the Gelug School. The temple's architectural style is a mixture of Indian Vihara design, Chinese Tang Dynasty design, and Nepalese design.
It was founded during the reign of King Songsten Gampo. According to tradition, the temple was built for the two brides of the king, Princess Wencheng of the Chinese Tang Dynasty and Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal. Both wives are said to have brought important Buddhist statues and images from China and Nepal to Tibet as part of their dowries, and they were housed here. Many Nepalese artists worked to construct this temple.
During the Bon period of Tibet the temple was (and sometimes still is), called the Zuglagkang (House of Religious Science or House of Wisdom). The term Zulag refers to the 'sciences' such as geomancy, astrology, and divination which formed part of the pre-Buddhist shamanistic religion now referred to as Bon. It is more commonly known today as the Jokhang, which means the 'House of the Buddha'.
Along with the Potala Palace, it is probably the most popular tourist attraction in Lhasa. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace," and a spiritual centre of Lhasa.
During the 1959 revolt in Lhasa, Sera monastery suffered severe damage, with its colleges destroyed and hundreds of monks killed. After the Dalai Lama took asylum in India, many of the monks of the Sera Monastery who survived the attack moved to Bylakuppe in Mysore, India. After initial tribulations, they established a parallel Sera Monastery with Sera Me and Sera Je colleges and a Great Assembly Hall on similar lines to the original monastery, with help from the Government of India. There are now 3,000 or more monks living in Sera, India and this community has also spread its missionary activities to several countries by establishing Dharma centers, propagating knowledge of Buddhism.
The Sera Monastery in Tibet and its counterpart in Mysore, India are the best locations to witness the “Monk Debates” on the teachings of Buddha and the philosophy of Buddhism. Sera Monastery developed over the centuries as a renowned place of scholarly learning, training hundreds of scholars, many of whom have attained fame in the Buddhist nations.
The Barkor is a popular devotional circumambulation for pilgrims and locals. The walk was about one kilometer long and encircled the entire Jokhang, the former seat of the State Oracle in Lhasa called the Muru Nyingba Monastery, and a number of nobles' houses including Tromzikhang and Jamkhang. There were four large incense burners (sangkangs) in the four cardinal directions, with incense burning constantly, to please the gods protecting the Jokhang. The Tromzikhang market is busy in Barkhor, and the area is a major tourist attraction.
Barkhor Square and Jokhang Temple
Since Jokhang temple has been a symbolic center of Tibetan protest since 1987, the Barkhor has also seen many demonstrations. In the year 1989, when the 14th Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize, pro-Dalai Lama residents threw “Tsampa” around the Barkhor to celebrate. After the Central government denounced the prize, residents who continued such demonstrations were arrested. The square was briefly closed by riot police during the 2008 Lhasa violence.
Norbulingka Palace is situated in the west side of Lhasa, a short distance to the southwest of Potala Palace. Norbulingka covers an area of around 36 hectares (89 acres) and considered to be the largest man made garden in Tibet.
Norbulingka park is considered the premier park of all such horticultural parks in similar ethnic settings in Tibet. During the summer and autumn months, the parks in Tibet, including the Norbulinga, become hubs of entertainment with dancing, singing, music and festivities. The park is where the annual Sho Dun or 'Yoghurt Festival' is held.
The Norbulingka palace has been mostly identified with the 13th and the 14th Dalai Lamas who commissioned most of the structures seen here now. During the invasion of Tibet in 1950, a number of buildings were damaged, but were rebuilt beginning in 2003, when the Chinese government initiated renovation works here to restore some of the damaged structures, and also the greenery, the flower gardens and the lakes.
Day 1: Lhasa Arrival
Welcome to the roof of the world! Your Tibet journey starts with a warm Tibetan style greeting with “Hada” from your local tour guide. Your will be picked up at the airport or from the train station, and then be escorted to your hotel in Lhasa city at the comfort of your own private vehicle. During this hour long drive to your hotel in the city, you can enjoy the breathtaking view along the Yarlong Tsangpo River. Tibetan features can be seen along the way, including Big Buddha engravings on the hill near the road, colorful prayer flags and friendly Tibetan people.
Overnight at Lhasa
After you arrive at your hotel, the rest of the day is free for you to explore the local area and acclimatize yourself to this high altitude city at the top of the world.
Tips: The altitude in Lhasa is about 3,650m above sea level. Take time out to relax and acclimate to the high altitude after arrival at your hotel. We recommend that you avoid strenuous activity for the first few days. It is advisable that you do not take showers. For first time visitors, it is common to have different degrees of high altitude sickness symptom. Drink more water, have fresh fruits and plenty of rest, which will help to prevent the sickness. Have a good rest at night, and you will be ready for tomorrow’s journey.
Day 2: Lhasa (B)
Take the challenge of climbing up to Potala Palace (3,650m above sea level) and get a great view of Lhasa’s urban areas. Great photographic opportunities along the way will overwhelm you as great view of the traditional Tibetan architecture is nothing short of spectacular. Hear the story of Dalai Lamas and see chapels where Dalai Lama studied, rested and worked in. Pass former Lama graves which are decorated with beautiful treasures.
Continue your tour to Jokhang Temple, which is within walking distance from Potala Palace. It is considered the spiritual center of Tibet. You will see many pilgrims worshipping within or nearby the temple. Enter the first floor of the temple and absorb the religious atmosphere, you will see pilgrims donating butter oil to keep the lights burning for Lord Buddha. While learning about Buddha and Lamas, more than you can possibly remember, you will acquire a huge respect and knowledge of the vast history of Tibetan Buddhism. You might also hear red-robed Lamas praying. Walk up to the roof of the temple, take some pictures of the golden roof and enjoy the beautiful sunshine of Lhasa while observing pilgrims praying and chanting mantras in front of the temple.
Finally, join the locals in a traditional pilgrimage route by taking a relaxing walk in a large circular path around Jokhang Temple at Barkor Street. The street is filled with pilgrims taking part in religious activities and street vendors selling a wide variety of traditional Tibetan goods and religious items. If you like you can also ask your tour guide take you to visit a Thangka workshop to marvel the fabulous Thangka art work. There are cafes along the street as well where you can lay back and enjoy one lazy afternoon of Lhasa life.
Tips: As you climb up to the Potala Palace, you might experience slight shortness of breath due to the exertion. Take your time and rest whenever needed. Please try not to bother pilgrims; you can take pictures from a distance. In Barkor Street, you will have a chance to pick a few unique souvenirs for your friends and do remember to bargain and compare the price in different shops. If you still want to go out in the evening, you may go to the square on your own in front of the Potala Palace around 8:30 p.m. to enjoy the 2-hours music fountain for free. Or else, simple take pleasure by looking at all the beautiful pictures you took during the day and get good sleep! On this day, you will be mainly outside, therefore you are required to bring plenty of water, a hat, sun cream, and sun glasses.
Day 3 :Lhasa (B)
After breakfast, you are driven to visit the Norbulingka Park, the former summer palace of Dalai Lama. Explore the beautiful gardens and experience one of the most holy sites in Tibetan Buddhism while soaking up the rich history. Next, come to Drepung Monastery, which were once the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery housing 10,000 monks in its heyday. Learn about the lives of Tibetan monks.
Your tour ends at Sera Monastery, where you will get the chance to experience “Buddhism Scriptures Debating”. These debates are unique to Sera and are quite famous. Enjoy the debates!
Tips: This day, you will be driven to the outskirts of Lhasa City and will spend less than an hour driving in total. The road condition is good. A little walking or climbing is involved. You are required to pack plenty of water with you along with your sun glasses and sun cream.
Day 4: Lhasa Departure (B)
The fourth day is free for you until you are escorted to the airport or train station.
Tips: You are advised to pack your luggage carefully, especially for small things like camera charger, power adaptor, mobile phone, phone charger, wallet and towel. If your flight is arranged in the afternoon, please make sure to check out the hotel before 12 p.m.
Cost does not include:
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