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Features of Tibetan Architecture (Dzong, Palace, Monastery, Lingka, Mausoleum)

Apart from blue sky, glowing sunlight, magnificent sacred mountains and lakes, there are also eminent and solemn ancient architecture in Tibet. No matter the magnificent palaces, resplendent monasteries or simple Diaofang, they are all telling you the brilliant culture Tibetan people has created. For people who like architecture, travelling to Tibet is undoubtedly one of the best choices. If you want to know the architecture style and main representative sites before travelling to Tibet, this article is right what you need.

1. Dzong

Dzong architecture is where Tibetan Zong government (equal to county government) resides. Dzong refers to “blockhouse”, “mountain village” and “fortress”. Dzong architecture includes scripture hall, Buddha Hall, Zong government, prison and warehouse. It is usually constructed on the mountain with residential area at the foot of the mountain. The most prominent feature of Dzong architecture is its complete defensive system.

Tibetan Architecture - Gyantse Dzong

The most famous Dzong at present is the Gyantse Dzong located in the south end of Gyantse, not far away from Palcho Monastery. Gyantse Dzong was constructed leaning the mountains and all the way reaching the top of the mountain. It occupies a commanding position in all its majesty. The Zong government, scripture hall, Buddha hall, city walls, blockhouse and warehouse are built on the mountain, with watercourse connecting to the residential area at the foot of the mountain, ensuring water utilization on top of the mountain. In 1904, Tibetan military and civilian used guns and cannons, broadswords and bows and arrows, by taking advantage of the geographical advantage of Dzong and its defensive system, to fight against British troops for three days and nights, reflecting its military meaning and value.

2. Palace

Palace is also one of the main architectures in Tibet. Historically, each Tsenpo (Emperor) of the Tubo Kingdom had several palaces. With the formation of the institution of unification of the state and religion in Tibet, palace was owned by Dharma of different aga. Till today, these palaces are primarily used to enshrine the stupa of Dalai Lama and hold significant religious and political ceremonies. This is the most prominent feature of Tibetan palaces, and also the feature different from palaces in Beijing.

Tibetan Architecture - Potala Palace

The most well-known representative of palace in Tibet is the Potala Palace which is located on Maburi Mountain northwest of Lhasa. It is the largest and most intact ancient palace architecture complex in Tibet of the highest altitude in the world. Apart from the main building materials of stone and timber, there are other two building materials unique to Tibet: Baimacao and Aga. The inner part of the hall is primarily built with gold, silver and other precious materials. It is the architecture with the largest gold consumption in the world. It has important value in architecture and history.

3. Monastery

For thousands of years, Tibetan Buddhism has been very important in Tibetan people’s life. Tibetan Buddhism monasteries dot on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, becoming the main theme of ancient architecture of Tibet. Three colours are commonly used in Tibetan monasteries: white representing the Heaven, red representing the earth and black representing the underground. Each colour is dedicated to a god, reflecting Tibetan people’s reverence for the god. Most Tibetan ancient monasteries have an evident style of military defense, mainly because Buddhism at that time had some secular rights on politics, economy and military. Nowadays, monasteries are primarily used for holding religious cultural activities. Each monastery is a witness of Tibetan religious and historical development, telling a story without words and recording the history.

Ganden Monastery

Main representatives of monasteries include The Jokhang, Ramoche Temple, Ganden Monastery, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and the Palcho Monastery.

4. Lingka

Lingka, Tibetan language, could be translated into “gardens”. Tibetan people love nature and like living in the garden in the wilderness. When summer comes, the whole family go outside and choose a place with lush trees and flowers to have a rest, dance and have a banquet. In ancient Tibet, most aristocrats, housekeepers, monasteries and manors had man-made lingkas.

Tibetan Architecture - Norbulingka Park

Among all lingkas in Tibet, Norbulingka is the most famous and typical one. Norbulingka means “Jeweled Park” in Tibetan language. It is the man-made park in Tibet with the largest scale, the most gorgeous scenery and most historical relics. It covers an area of 36 qing. It is the summer palace for the 7th Dalai Lama and later generations of Dalai Lama to deal with government affairs, hold ceremonies, stay away from summer heat and hold religious activities. There are more than 100 kinds of plants in the garden, including common plants in Tibetan area, exotic plants from southern and northern foothill of Himalaya, precious plants transplanted from other parts of China or introduced from abroad. Therefore, it could be credited as the plateau botanical garden.

5. Mausoleum

There are two types of mausoleum in Tibet: Mausoleum of Tubo dynasty and stupa (mainly in big monasteries). The former is the mausoleum for Tsenpo (Emperor), prince, and imperial concubine of Tubo dynasty from the 7th -9th century. Stupa is primarily used to bury dead Dharma, Hutuktu, living Buddha or sainted monk. After their death, people use spices to protect the body and build stupa to worship. Or they build stupa to preserve the ashes for people to worship.

Tibetan Architecture - The 5th Dalai’s Stupa

The 5th Dalai’s Stupa is the representative of Tibetan stupa. It is enshrined in Potala Palace. It is made of wood inside, with a gold cover made of over 10 thousand liang gold. It is decorated by jewelry and looks very gorgeous.

The Valley of the Kings, representative of mausoleum, is located on the riverside of Yarlung River in Qonggyai County. There are 9 overt mounds. The mausoleum of Songtsen Gampo is at the lowest site of the cemetery, with the mausoleum of Trisong Detsen next to it. There is a huge Gongdebei (a stele to the merits and virtues) beside the mausoleum.

Tibetan Architecture  - Mausoleum

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. Ho*** from: When to get my Tibet permit
January 15, 2020 05:11

Hello, we are considering to travel in Tibet in summer. We are a family of 5, two adults and three kids, age 13(then), 10, 8. We are interested in the 10 days Mt. EBC & Namtso Lake Group tour. We are US citizens with valid 10-year Chinese multiple entry visa, which we have applied when we went to Beijing in 2019. We are currently living in South Korea.  


1. Are kids suitable (or even allowed) for this tour?  

2. If kids can join, are there any discount deals for kids?

Answered by Helen
January 15, 2020 07:54

Dear Ms. Ho***,

    Greetings from Helen at Budget Tibet Tour and welcome you to join our 10 days Mt. Everest & Namtso Lake group tour. For your questions: 1. Your kids are suitable for this tour. Travelling in Tibet is as safe for kids as it is for their parents. While the high Tibetan plateau may be the highest place on the planet, very often, the kids that visit this region are more adaptable and have fewer problems than their parents. We also have arranged wonderful Tibet tours for many families with kids such as a tour to EBC for a family with a 3-year-old son, a 9-year-old girl and a 11-year-old boy, they did have fun in Tibet and there is no problem for them. Or you can take some medicine under the guidance of doctor to prevent high altitude before enter Tibet. 2. If kids travel with you, we'll offer some discount for them, please check your email and find more detailed information. Thanks & Regards

Email to Helen about any question or tell us your own questions via the form on the right side

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