Plan your Tibet tour? Shigatse is highly recommended to on your travel plan if you have enough time for travelling in Tibet. Shigatse refers to both “Shigatse City” and “Shigatse Prefecture”. Shigatse City is the seat of Shigatse Prefecture.
Shigatse Prefecture is composed of one county-level city (Shigatse City), 17 counties and one fort (Zhangmu). The 17 counties include Gyantse, Bailang, Lhatse, Sakya, Gangba, Dingjie, Tingri, Nyalam, Kangma, Yadong, Renbu, Nanmulin, Xietongmen, Jielong, Angren, Shaga and Zhongba. Shigatse Prefecture has a population of over 66,0000 with over a dozen of ethnic groups including Tibetan, Han, Hui, Mongolian, Tu, Manchus and Miao.
Shigatse City is located 250km southwest of Lhasa and 480km northeast of Zhangmu Fort. It lies at the confluence of Yarlung Zangbo (aka Brahmaputra) River and the Nyang River (Nyanchue) with the altitude of 3800m. Shigatse City administrates 2 subdistricts, and 10 townships around the city. Shigatse City has a population of over 90,000.
Shigatse City is the second largest city in Tibet with a history of over 500 years. Historically Shigatse was the ancient capital of Ü-Tsang province. Shigatse is also the traditional seat of the Panchen Lamas.
Shigatse City is the hub of the transportation network connecting Lhasa, West Tibet, Gyantse, Nepal and Mt.Everest. The National Highway 318 (China Nepal Friendship Highway) passes by Shigatse City.
On August 23, 2011, I visited Shigatse City for the first time together with a 24 pax tour group from Venezuela. We set off for Shigatse City at 3:00pm from Gyantse, 90km southeast of Shigatse City. It was one and half hours’ comfortable drive due to the smooth asphalt road from Gyantse to Shigatse.
We had to drive very fast to catch up with buying the entrance tickets for Tashilhunpo Monastery before it stopped tickets selling at 6:00pm on the day since the next morning our local tour guide would leave us and go to the police station for getting the travel permit for Mt.Everest and Zhangmu Fort. The Tibet Travel Permit was not enough for entering Mt. Everest and Zhangmu border. Foreign visitors have to register and get another travel permit at the police station either at Lhasa or Shigatse for Alien Travel Permit for border area like Mt.Everest and Zhangmu Fort.
The monk ticket collector had our entrance tickets checked
Located on the east side of the hill in the west of the city of Shigatse, Tashilhunpo Monstery is the seat of panchen Lama and one of the six great Gelugpa temples along with Sera Temple, Drepung Temple, Gandan Monastery, Taer Monastery and Labrang Monastery. Built 1447 by Gendun Drup, the First Dalai Lama, the temple once housed over 4000 monks, now there are about 1,000.
Tashilhunpo Monstery is the seat of panchen Lama
Some of the templs, institutons and halls are open to the public. The most attractive is the 27me high statue of Jampa ( Maitreya ) Buddha in the Temple of Maitreya. It was built in 1914 by the Ninth Panchen Lama to hold a gigantic statue of the Maitreya Buddha. We were not allowed to take photos or videos inside the temple. But if you would like to pay around RMB 180, you will be permitted to use your camera for taking pictures.
Entering the Temple of Maitreya
One of the oldest building in the monastery was the temple for housing the tomb of the fourth Panchen Lama. But unfortunately it was closed. Then we moven to the temple east of the Temple of Maitrya. It was the temple housing the tombs of Panchen Lamas from fifth to ninth.
Inside the temple housing the tombs of Panchen Lamas from fifth to ninth
Then we visited the temple built housing the tomb of the 10th Panchen Lama. On Jan 28, 1989, the 10th Panchen Lama passed away. The central government decided to erect the temple for him, using 614 kilograms of gold, 275 kilograms of silver and over 10,000 diamonds of various kinds for the golden pagoda and the hall.
Housing the tomb of the 10th Panchen Lama
The main Chanting Hall is not to missed. Lastly we went to the grand prayer hall. It happened that a group of monks were chanting in the main hall. We were alloaed to walk around and evebn through the rows of sitting monks chanting in the hall. If you are willing to pay about RMB 180, you are allowed to take pictures iniside the hall.
Some monks whi had finished chanting went out of the prayer hall.
A snapshot of the monks talking to each other
The next morning our tour guided went to the police station for abtaining the travel permits for the tour group. I used the half day time wandering the streets to get a first hand information in the city of Shigatse.
In general, Shigatse is a small city though it was the second largest city in Tibet. There were four main north to south streets, starting from west to east, they were Shandong Street ( 山东路 ), Shanghai Street ( 上海路), Heilongjiang Street ( 黑龙江路) and Nyanchue Road （年河路） with the Nyanchue River west of Nyanchue Road. So the four main roads and the Nyanchue River run through the city from north to south.
There are two main streets running from west to east – Xueqiang Street(雪强路）, Qingdao Street（青岛路）and Mt.Everest Road （珠峰路 Zhufeng Road）. The busy Walking Street is just near Tashilhunpo. The major hotels in Shigatse are located on Shandong Street, Shanghai Street and Mt.Everest Street.
Shigatse City is a walkable city. Tashilhunpo is at the west end of Mt.Everest Street (Zhufeng Street). Coming out of the Temple, turn right and you will enter the walking street running from northeast to southwest in Shigatse lined with front stores selling all kinds of local products.
At the northeast end of the Walking Street, turn north and you will see the Shigatse Fortress which is still under the construction at the time of writing. If you turn east, you will be on Qingdao Street.
This time we stayed at Shen Kang Hotel (0892 -8822922 )located at the northern tip of Shandong Street, which is close to the walking street. The popular Shigatse Hotel is located on the Shanghai Street. Shigatse Tian Lin Grand Hotel is in the middle of Mt.Everest Street. Gang Gyen Hotel is located at the west end of Mt.Everest Street, close to Tashilhunpo Monastery.
Shen Kang Hotel
Shigatse Hotel on Shanghai Road
Shigatse Tian Lin Hotel in the middle of Mt.Everest Road (Zhufeng Road)
Gang Gyen Hotel at the west end of Mt.Everest Road (Zhufeng Road)
The tourist map of Shigatse
Shigatse Travel Tips:
1. Shigatse Tourism Complaint Phones: 13889028808, 13908922542
2. The Bus Station on Shanghai Road: Buses to Lhasa, Lhatse, Tingri and Zhangmu
3. Tashilhunpo Monastery: RMB 55
4. If go further south to Mt. Everest and Zhangmu, apply for a travel permit in Shigatse
5. Shigatse Heping Airport has some flights to Lhasa
7. Shigatse and Lhasa railway is under construction