About 4 km (2.5 mi) north of Lhasa lies Sera Monastery (Sèlā Sì, 色拉寺), one of the three great university monasteries dedicated to the Gelukpa, or "yellow hat," school of Buddhism. Although many of the monastery's nearby affiliated hermitages were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, Sera remains one of the oldest original structures important to Tibetan Buddhism. During weekdays starting from 3pm, you can witness the resident monks engage in the famously clamorous debates in which loud claps and shouts punctuate the..
Any trip to Lhasa will warrant a few visits to Barkhor (Bākuò Jiē, 八廓街; "Barkhor Street")—the religious heart and market center of the capital surrounding Jokhang Temple. The plaza itself was created and paved not too long ago by the Chinese, but its been an important site for Tibetans for far longer, with the circuit around the temple going back to the 7th century. In recent decades, the square has been a popular place for protests and demonstrations (though these are becoming rare and small due to strict surveillance), so..
Sitting well exposed to the glare of the sun, the summer experience at Potala Palace prompted the Seventh Dalai Lama (1708-1757) to have Norbulingka built, a summer palace for Lhasa’s governing officials. Each year in spring, a grand procession took the current Dalai Lama and government officials from Potala Palace to Norbulingka. Translating to “Jewel Park,” Norbulingka was centered around a walled garden and the favorite residence of the current Dalai Lama who had the New Summer Palace addition constructed as his own..
Jokhang Temple (Dàzhāo Sì, 大昭寺) is the most important and sacred temple in Tibetan Buddhism and a key center of pilgrimage. The symbolic power of the site has made it one of the most politically sensitive spots within the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Founded in 647 during the reign of Tibetan ruler Songstän Gampo, this temple was initially constructed to house the Jowo Sakyamuni, a sacred image of the 12-year old Buddha. Located in the temple's main hall, this is the most revered Buddha statue in Tibet. The four-storey..
To get to the Samye Monastery (Sāngyē Sì, 桑耶寺) from Lhasa, you'll have to take an early morning bus to the Samye Ferry (recommended) or Tsetang Bridge to get across the river. Most pilgrims and tourists hitchhike the 9 km (5.5 mi) from the crossing to the monastery. Despite this rather troublesome journey, most visitors to Samye are pleasantly surprised by this out-of-the way attraction. It is, after all, the oldest monastery in Tibet, built more than 1,200 years ago, and a symbol of Buddhism's triumph over Bön, the previous..
One of Tibet's four major holy lakes, Yamdrok-tso (Yángzhuó Yōngcuò, 羊卓雍错湖), or "Yamdrok Lake," is located approximately 120 km (75 mi) southwest of Lhasa. Gyantse lies around 90 km (55 mi) to its west. At over 72 km (44 mi) long and at about 4,441 m (14,570 ft) above sea level, this gloriously vivid turquoise-blue apparition is surrounded by mountains and glows in the midday sun amidst the bleak landscape like an otherworldly gem. It's believed to be the earthly home of the Buddhist..
A palace was originally built at this site in 637 by the founder of the Tibetan Empire Songtsän Gampo, and even though none of that original structure remains, it's clear that the place had some spiritual draw because the Fifth Dalai Lama built the present-day Potala Palace (Bùdálā Gōng, 布达拉宫) in the same spot in the late 17th century. The massive palace was at one time the largest building in the world and remains a spectacular imposition to Lhasa's landscape today. It's hard to keep your eyes off the..
Ganden Monastery (Gāndān Sì, 甘丹寺) is an important monastic university—the first of the three great Gelugpa spiritual and educational centers built in the early 15th century along with Sera Monastery and Drepung Monastery. The monastery complex is located about 40 km (25 mi) from Lhasa but is worth the trek. The Red Guard did a thorough job destroying much of Ganden in 1959 (the thousands of resident monks were forced to dismantle many of the buildings themselves by hand) and almost finished it off in 1966 with firearms and..