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History

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.

Travelers' Questions Might Help

The questions raised by our past customers can help you get a more clear picture about tours to Tibet, read them or tell us your own questions please contract us, our specialists will reply you within 24 hours.

Ms. Pa*** from: Can I apply for the Chinese Group Visa if I travel only by myself alone?
October 16, 2019 12:26

I want to take the train from Lanzhou to Lhasa on the 12th of Nov. 2019 and need a permit for Tibet. I want to spend 5-6 days in Lhasa. I need to book a train ticket and accommodation I am a U.S. citizen and a solo traveler. My 4th time to China.

Please help!! I have had no success with other tour agencies.

Answered by Nancy
October 17, 2019 02:03

Dear Ms. Pa***,

Thanks very much for your inquiry. From your travel time, here we recommend one 6 days Exploration of Legendary Ancient Cities group tour to you, and we currently have one departure date on 14th of November. Taking train from Lanzhou to Lhasa will cost you about 24 hours, and we are happy to help you book train ticket. Please kindly note that there is no "permit-only" or "accommodation-only" service, foreign tourists are not allowed to travel Tibet alone, you have to book a pre-organized tour including guide, car, and hotel as well. As you are only one person, joining a group tour is the most economical way. We will prepare guide, car, accommodation, Tibet permit for you. Applying for Tibet Permit requires copy of your passport and Chinese visa, and it usually takes about 15-20 days, if you want to join our tour, please send copy of your passport and visa to us quickly. I will send detailed itinerary to your email, please check it. Best regards.

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