About city: Lhasa


The city located in highlands of Tibet is sacred for millions of Buddhists. Lhasa, translated as the «the place of gods», is still a spiritual center of Tibet, even though in 1950 it was included into the People's Republic of China (PRC).

In VII century Songtsen Gampo, one of the greatest rulers of Tibet, was able for the first time to unite separate lands of Tibet and declared Buddhism national religion. He moved the capital from Cedang to Lhasa in 637 A.D. That year on the slopes of Marpori (Red Mountain), which literally dominates Lhasa, he laid down the Potala Palace meaning «Sacred Mountain». Since that time a special form of Buddhism had began to develop known as Lamaism.

Until nowadays there have survived no constructions on Mount Marpori from the times of Songtsen Gampo. Today Potala was laid down in 1645 by another great ruler of Tibet, Dalai Lama V. By 1645 the White Palace was built (secular part of Potala). The Red Palace (religious part of Potala), was built during 1690-1694. After finishing Potala Lhasa was finally established as a single capital of Tibet and was so until 1950 (annexing of Tibet by China).

In 639 A.D., almost at the same time as Potala, Songtsen Gampo laid down Jo-Khang, which became one of the most important Buddhist monasteries. There were stored the famous sculp-tures of Buddha that Songtsen Gampo obtained as a dowry of his wives. They are Sakyamuni from the Nepali princess Bhrikuti and Akshobhya from the Chinese princess Wen Cheng. It has been believed that these two wives had greatly contributed to penetration of Buddhism in Tibet, that’s why the sculptures of the princesses, as well as Songtsen Gampo himself, are placed in the main hall of Jokhang.

There are three circuits in Jokhang (one inside and two outside the temple), by which pilgrims make their koras, including one of the most important in Buddhism – Barkhor kora. In Tibetan tradition kora is a path to absolution and renewal of pure bodily energy. The pilgrims, saying mantras, go clockwise around the sacred place. The circuit is the symbol of birth, life, death and rebirth.

Besides Jokhang, Lhasa has also some other hallowed monasteries and temples: Ramoche, Sera, Drepung, and Ganden. All of them belong to the famous in Tibet Gelug School. Previously they were large spiritual centers for tens of thousands of monks.

After Potala and monasteries you should visit Norbu Lingka. It isn’t only a summer palace but a garden built by Dalai Lama VII in 1755.
 
Lhasa is at the altitude of 3650 meters, that’s why the first day upon your arrival you should spare for acclimatization, so that to avoid mountain sickness. The most convenient way to get to Lhasa would be to take a flight of Air China either in Beijing or Shanghai. In 2005 there were opened a Lhasa railway line in Beijing, but the trip will take you 3 days. Because of political complications the trips to Lhasa were restricted for foreigners, so you should first consult the embassy of China.

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