The Beautiful Lhasa is a Traveler’s Delight
When one travels to China, one has the opportunity to visit some of its oldest cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, which effectively have cradled and nurtured the Chinese civilization. But there is another important city in the country which has nurtured the religion, the followers of which are spread across the globe. Lhasa City is the administrative capital of Tibet and it is taking shape as one of the most modern cities today. Despite its height and recent development, Lhasa has been a popular destination for tourists and Buddhist followers alike.
Important Places to Visit in Lhasa
Tibet is undoubtedly a crowning jewel in the crown of China. Almost all study abroad programs and summer programs for high school students try to incorporate Tibet in the travel itinerary. The reason lies in its cultural importance. Not only is Tibet the hub of Buddhism, but it is also a popular destination for all those who are interested in Buddhist studies. If not either of the above, students who are in the country to learn Chinese or on gap year programs can visit the province just to see its natural beauty.
Lhasa is a prefecture level Tibetan City that is also the administrative capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China. The city is one of the highest cities in the world. Despite the location, it has almost all the amenities required by a visitor. Now Lhasa is easily accessible either by trains and flights.
Among the important places to visit is the fortress of Potala. But what attracts the tourists and the devotees more is Mount Potala which is a mystical mountain. It is said that this is the residing place of Chenresigor or Avalokitesvara who is one of the Bodhisatvas. The site is serene and instills peace and hence is considered to be symbolic of the compassion of Buddhism. It is said that the place has the power to convert the strictest of non-believers, and there are stories about those who adopted Buddhism as their faith after visiting Mount Potala.
A good shot of the Potala Palace from its south square
Shooting Potala Palace from the Medicine King Hill
A Tibetan English speaking tour guide is introducing the history of Potala Palace.
Another site to visit is Jokhang Temple which lies to the east of Lhasa City. It is one of the most revered temples in Tibet and a must-see place for every traveler.
Inside Jokhang Temple
Sera Temple is not to missed. Located 3km north of downtown Lhasa, Sera Monastery is one of the three Gelukpa college monasteries in Lhasa. The other two are Ganden Monastery and Drepung Monastery. The Sera Monastery is mainly composed of the Great Assembly Hall and three colleges (Tratsang). Sera Monastery has three colleges (Tratsang), inluding Sera Me College (Tratsang), Sera Je College and Ngkapa Tratsang. The Sera Je College is the largest among three.
The exterior of Je College in Sera Monastery
Sitting there and chanting
Each monk has a bowl of barley congee
After eating congee, all the monks put on yellow hats
Drak Yerpa Monastery
Drak Yerpa Monastery should be also included on your Lhasa trip. Drak Yerpa Monastery is located about 40km northeast to the city center of Lhasa. There are two popular Tibetan verses in relation to Drak Yerpa. One verse says that “While Tibet’s holy place is in Lhasa, Lhasa’s holy place in Drak Yerpa”. Another verse goes like that “Visiting Lhasa without going to Drak Yerpa is just like making a new clothe without adding the collar”. These two verses pinpoint the importance of Drak Yerpa in the hearts of the common Tibetan pilgrims.
Drak Yerpa Monastery is a hermitage built on a hillside of the mountain at the altitude of 4885 meters. The hermitage is composed of many meditation caves. Some say there are now still 80 meditation left on the hillside. Some houses were built to accommodate the caves, hence cave temples. So actually Drak Yerpa is a cave monastery. Many buddhist statues in the house or the temple were caved from natural rocks.
A mountain of five coloured prayer flags at Drak Yerpa Monastery
Have a chat with a monk in one of the hillside temples
However, Tibet is changing. If one is interested in the cultural aspect of Tibet, an immediate China tour should be planned. Even though the old Tibetan town of Lhasa is quite different now, the “neo” Lhasa City has a small separate oriental part which is a stark reminder of the predevelopment era. As a tourist, one can stay in the finest guest houses and shop in the supermarkets there. When on China travel one must ensure that Lhasa is a part of the itinerary.