Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Lhasa "Highest Capital on earth"
Lhasa, sometimes spelled Lasa, is the administrative capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China. Lhasa is located at the foot of Mount Gephel.
Traditionally, the city is the seat of the Dalai Lama and the capital of Tibet, and is one of the highest capitals in the world. It is the location of the Potala and Norbulingka palaces (both are included as World Heritage Sites), and in Tibetan Buddhism is regarded as the holiest centre in Tibet. The city is home to 257,400 people as of the 2004 census estimate.
Lhasa literally means "place of the gods", although ancient Tibetan documents and inscriptions demonstrate that the place was called Rasa, which means "goat's place", until the early 7th century.
For tourists, Barkhor Street is a magical place showing the original outlook of Lhasa. The street was paved by hand-polished stone boards. Though it is not broad, it accommodates thousands of tourists every day. Varied shops stand on both sides of the street and thousands of floating stands are on every corner. Most of them offer the prayer wheels, long-sleeve 'chuba' (the Tibetan people's traditional clothes), Tibetan knives and some religious articles for sale. Furthermore, some shops sell 'Thangka' (the Tibetan scroll painting), which is a unique art of Tibet with the themes of religion, history, literature, science and customs. Surprisingly, there are some articles from India and Nepal in this street as well.
To sum up, Barkhor Street is a place full of religious atmosphere and a world of exotic articles. If you have been attracted by it, you should go there. Believe your eyes, and you will get a lot of surprise there.
The Jokhang Temple is a four-storey timber complex with a golden top. It adopted the architectural styles of the Tang Dynasty, as well as those of Tibet and Nepal.
Standing in the square of the Jokhang Temple, one can view the entire complex. On the square there are two steles, one recording an alliance between the king of Tibet and the emperor of the Tang, the other portraying the teaching of the Tibetan people to prevent and treat smallpox, a once incurable disease in Tibet.
In the eastern section of the yard there are rows of votive lights. These flicking lights provide a path leading all the way to the main hall. The main hall, over 1,300 years old, is the oldest shrine of the complex. Above the major entrance, there is a Dharma Wheel (chakra) flanked by two deer. This represents the unity of all things and symbolizes Sakyamuni himself. On both sides of the passageway, paintings showing the building of the temple, and renderings of the temple from the seventh century are adorned on the wall. The statue of Sakyamuni at age 12 sits in the middle of the hall. It has been gilded many times and decorated elaborately with jewels typical of Tibet. Statues of King Songtsem Gampo, Princess Wen Cheng and Princess Bhrikuti are on the second floor. On the top floor, there are four gilded bronze tile tops crafted in the emblematical Tang style.
Originally built by King Songtsen Gampo in the seventh century, Potala Palace is located on the Red Hill of Lhasa, Tibet. Destroyed by lightning and war, Potala Palace had been rebuilt by the Fifth Dalai Lama in 1645. Since then, Potala Palace has become the seat of Dalai Lamas and also the political center of Tibet. The thirteenth Dalai Lama extended it to the present size, 117 meters (384 ft) in height and 360 meters (1,180 ft) in width, covering an area of more than 130, 000 sq meters (about 32 acres). Mainly comprised by the White Palace (administerial building) and the Red Palace (religious building), Potala Palace is famous for its grand buildings, complicated constructions, devotional atmosphere and splendid artworks.
Upon entering the East Portal, visitors will come into the Deyang Shar courtyard where Dalai Lamas watched Tibetan opera. West of the courtyard is the White Palace. As the winter palace of Dalai Lamas, the White Palace is a seven-floor building originally built in 1645. The wall of the palace was painted to white to convey peace and quiet. The Great East Hall on the fourth floor is the largest hall in White Palace, occupying a space of 717 sq meters (about 7,718 sq ft). This hall was also the site for holding momentous religious and political events. The living quarters and offices of regents are on the fifth and sixth floors and while the top floor consists of the East Chamber of Sunshine and the West Chamber of Sunshine. Because of the sunshine in the chambers all year round, the East and West Chamber were the places where Dalai Lamas lived, worked and studied. The furnishings are sumptuousness and comfortable, revealing the dignity of Dalai Lamas. Standing on the spacious balcony, visitors can look down on beautiful Lhasa.
Drepung Monastery (wylie: 'bras spungs dgon ), (literally “Rice Heap” monastery), located at the foot of Mount Gephel, is one of the "great three" Gelukpa university monasteries of Tibet.
The other two are Ganden and Sera. Drepung is the largest of all Tibetan monasteries, and indeed at its peak was the largest monastery of any religion in the world. It was founded in 1416 by Jamyang Chojey, a direct disciple of Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelukpa school. It is located on the Gambo Utse mountain, 5 kilometers from the western suburb of Lhasa.
Freddie Spencer Chapman reported, after his 1936-37 trip to Tibet, that Drepung was at that time the largest monastery in the world, and housed 7,700 monks, "but sometimes as many as 10,000 monks."
Norbulingka literally: ( "The Jewelled Park") is a palace and surrounding park in Lhasa, Tibet which served as the traditional summer residence of the successive Dalai Lamas from the 1780s up until the PRC takeover in the late 1950s.
The park was begun by the 7th Dalai Lama beginning in 1755. The Norbulingka Park and Summer Palace were completed in 1783 under Jampel Gyatso, the Eight Dalai Lama, on the outskirts of Lhasa. and became the summer residence during the reign of the Eighth Dalai Lama.
The earliest building is the Gesang Pozhang Palace built by the 7th Dalai Lama. The 'New Palace' was begun in 1954 by the present Dalai Lama and completed in 1956. It contains chapels, gardens, fountains and pools. To the west the Kalsang Potang built by Seventh Dalai Lama is "a beautiful example of Yellow Hat architecture. Its fully restored throne room is also of interest."
The Sichuan-Tibet Highway (G318) terminates in Lhasa starting in Chengdu.
Journalists report that the opening of the Railway—the highest plateau railway in the world—in July 2006 has brought with it an increasing demand for property which has pushed prices up.
Five trains arrive at and depart from Lhasa railway station each day. Train numbered T27 takes 47 hours, 28 minutes from Beijing West, arrives in Lhasa at 20:58 every day. The ticket costs 389 yuan for 'hard seat', or 813 yuan for a lower 'hard sleeper', 1262 yuan for a lower 'soft sleeper'. T28 from Lhasa to Beijing West departs at 08:00 and arrives in Beijing at 08:00 on the third day, taking 48 hours. There are also trains from Chengdu, Chongqing, Lanzhou, Xining, Guangzhou, and Shanghai. Initially the large altitude difference has caused problems on this route, giving passengers altitude sickness. To counter this, extra oxygen is pumped in through the ventilation system, and personal oxygen masks are available.
See also: Qingzang Railway and Lhasa railway station
Lhasa Gonggar Airport is located about 98 kilometres south of the city. There is also a carpet factory there known for its high quality carpets, and the flagship hotel, the Lhasa Hotel has grown up in recent years