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Lhasa is the most important city in modern and historical Tibet, both religiously and politically; located in the geographical center of central Tibet, it is home to the sacred center of Tibet in the Jokhang Temple and the famed Potala Palace, from which the Dalai Lamas ruled over Tibet.

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Lhasa and the Potala

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An Introduction to Lhasa

The city of Lhasa is the heart of cultural Tibet. Its importance dates back to its status as the capital of the Tibetan Empire in the seventh and eighth centuries, and as the capital of the Dalai Lama’s government from the seventeenth century onwards. In China it serves as the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Lhasa has also been perhaps the most important religious site over the history of Tibet. It is home to the Jokhang Temple complex, founded by the seventh century Tibetan Emperor Songtsen Gampo and residence of the most famous religious image in Tibet – the Jowo statue of the Buddha Shakyamuni. The Jokhang is the nucleus of central Lhasa’s commercial and religious Barkor area. The Potala, built in the seventeenth century by the Fifth Dalai Lama as his palace and one of the greatest examples of Tibetan architecture, is also located in the Lhasa Valley. Finally, two of the three great seats of Geluk monasticism – Sera and Drepung – have been located here since the fifteenth century.

The city of Lhasa is located in the southern part of the Tibetan high plateau at an altitude of 3650m above sea level and on roughly the same latitude as Cairo. The valley in which Lhasa is situated is formed by the river Kyichu, a tributary of the Tsangpo (which is known as the Brahmaputra in India). The dominant peaks surrounding Lhasa range between 4400m and 5300m above sea level.



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Collection Essays on Places
Visibility Public - accessible to all site users (default)
Author David Germano
UID mandala-texts-47846
  • ལྷ་ས། (Tibetan, Tibetan script, Original)
    • > Lhasa (Tibetan, Latin script, Transcription-THL Simplified Tibetan Transcription)
    • > lha sa (Tibetan, Latin script, Transliteration-THL Extended Wylie Transliteration)
    • > 拉薩 (Tibetan, Traditional Chinese Characters, Transcription-Tibetan-to-Chinese Transcription)
      • > 拉萨 (Tibetan, Simplified Chinese Characters, Transliteration-Traditional-to-Simplified Chinese Transliteration)
      • > Lasa (Tibetan, Latin script, Transcription-Pinyin Transcription)
  • ར་ས། (Tibetan, Tibetan script, Original)
    • > Rasa (Tibetan, Latin script, Transcription-THL Simplified Tibetan Transcription)
    • > ra sa (Tibetan, Latin script, Transcription-THL Simplified Tibetan Transcription)
  • Shixiaqu (Chinese, Latin script, Original)
Etymology for ལྷ་ས།:

Lit. "god-place," referring especially to the presence of the two famous Buddha statues traditionally housed in the Jokhang and Ramoché temples respectively, but also more generally to the location of important shrines, temples, and monasteries within the city of Lhasa.

Etymology for ར་ས།:

Lit. "goat-place."

Place ID: F637

THL Extended GB Code: 5401010000



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