Travel guide to Lhasa, China – Lhasa travel info and Tibet travel info

If Tibet is the “roof of the world,” then its capital, Lhasa, is certainly the “city of the sun.” Standing on a plain over 13,000 feet above sea level, surrounded by towering mountains, Lhasa is a town bathed in sunlight.

Tibet has suffered fluctuating fortunes over the centuries. Historical records reveal little about the region before the seventh century, when King Songzan Ganbu (617-650 A.D.) unified the area and introduced the Sanskrit alphabet. During the centuries that followed, Buddhism took root in Tibet, introduced from India into China by pilgrims traveling the “Silk Road” far to the north.

Buddhism was influenced by the local religion, called Bon, and developed into a form called Lamaism. By the 10th century, the religious movement began to assert political leadership as well. In 1573, a reincarnation of Zongkaba, the founder of the “yellow hat” sect devoted to religious reform, became the first Dalai Lama.

The Potala Palace dominates the city of Lhasa from its site atop Red Mountain (Marpo Ri). It served as a fortress and as the residence of the Dalai Lamas, and so was the center of both political and religious power in Tibet, remaining today an immensely popular pilgrimage site. Divided into White and Red Palaces, the complex rises 110 m (360 ft) high and extends 360 m (1,200 ft) across, and was one of the world’s tallest buildings before the era of modern skyscrapers. Rising thirteen stories and containing over a thousand rooms and some 200,000 images, the palace complex took the work of more than 7,000 laborers and 1,500 artists for more than fifty years to complete. Beneath the fortress are the dungeons where those who ran afoul of the Lamaist theocracy were imprisoned and tortured.

The magnificent Jokhang Temple, founded more than 1,300 years ago, is situated in the center of Lhasa. In front of the gate stands a stone tablet from the Tang Dynasty, bearing both Chinese characters and Tibetan script. Nearby is the Tang willow tree planted by Princess Wen Cheng.

Another famous building in Lhasa is the Drepung Monastery located six miles north of the city. Standing on a high cliff, its many tiers leaning into a steep mountain face, the monastery is built in traditional Tibetan style. Founded in 1416, it was one of the centers of the “yellow hat” sect, and in its time was the largest of the three great monasteries near Lhasa, housing 10,000 lamas. The temples of the monastery are lavishly decorated with statues of the Buddha, Zongkaba, and others of the Buddhist pantheon. The monastery is still open to worshippers.

Mount Qomolangma, meaning “goddess the third” in the Tibetan language, or Mt. Everest as known in the West, is the world’s highest peak, more than 39,000 feet high.

It is everybody’s wish to see the world’s highest peak, of course, but it is best to admire it from afar, and leave the climbing to the mountaineers.

19 US Army Generals Visit Tibet
Xinhua News Agency May 16, 2006 – A group of 19 US Army generals wound up a two-day visit in the Tibet Autonomous Region, southwest China,and left on Monday aboard a special flight, heading for Beijing, the Chinese national capital. The delegation, which arrived in Lhasa, the autonomous regionalcapital, on Sunday afternoon, is headed by retired General Morgan Thomas, who is senior advisor of the National Defense University of the United States. These generals are attending an academic course at the US National Defense University. During their stay, the American visitors were informed of political, economic and cultural progress in Tibet, by local government officials and officers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The visitors were surprised at what they witnessed in Tibet. Retired General Morgan Thomas said Tibet was not as poor as they had thought before the visit. Tibet had developed as fast as elsewhere in China and, meanwhile, its unique history and civilization are so attractive to them, said the retired general.

Qomolangma (Mount Everest) Remeasured: 8,844.43m
China Internet Info Center Oct. 9, 2005 – The State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping (SBSM) announced in Beijing today its new measurement of Mount Qomolangma, also known as Mount Everest, as 8,844.43 meters above sea level., translated by Li Shen and Liu Yuming,

Tibet to Have One More Airport
Xinhua News, Aug. 17, 2005 – China will build an airport in Ngari Prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region, a regional government official said here Tuesday. The project is part of the nation’s development plan for the next five years, said Yan Shijin, deputy director of the regional development and reform commission.

Revamped Potala Palace Square Opens in Mid-July July 7, 2005 – The Potala Palace Square expansion and renovation project in Lhasa, Tibet, has entered its final stage. It should be completed by mid-July in time for celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region on September 1…

Walk on the Roof of the World
Shenzhen Daily, May 18, 2005 – Lhasa, the capital city of the Tibet Autonomous Region is a place where most travelers start their Tibet-trip since it is easier and more convenient to reach. The city sits at an altitude of 3,650 meters and has a history for more than 1,300 years. As 300 days out of 365 enjoy sunlight, Lhasa is referred to the “Sunshine City” and it is dry in most months.

Kekexili uninhabited zone to open to tourists, June 1, 2005 – Kekexili uninhabited zone, a “forbidden zone for tourists” which is famous for its naturral view and primitive ecological environment, will be open to tourists for the first time soon.WIth this in-depth travel to Kekexili named “Enter Kekexili and Protect the Green River Source” tourists will have a change to go deep inside the Kekexili uninhabited zone by 4WD jeep and visit the rare and precious wildlife such as chiru…

Train to Link Tibet; Luxury Service, Butlers Aavailable

Shanghai Daily Dec. 13, 2005Local travelers will soon be able to take a pressurized train to Tibet, for about half the price of flying to the elevated region. The express line, which will take more than two days to travel from Shanghai to Lhasa, will go into operation next July. The train will stop at several famous sightseeing spots along the route, such as Qinghai Lake, Hol Xil, Kun Lun Mountain and the Potala Palace. When the line opens, it will link Tibet with Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Xining and Lanzhou, according to Hu Yadong, vice director of the Ministry of Railway. The trip from Shanghai will take about 53 hours, and cost more than 1,000 yuan (US$123). The line will apply the most advanced trains in China, which are equipped with oxygen supply devices for the high altitude as about 960 kilometers of track along the Qinghai-Tibet section of the line are 4,000 meters above sea level. All of the carriages on the train will be pressurized, similar to an airplane’s cabin, to prevent passengers from suffering headaches or rapid heart beats at the high altitude. It will only cost half as much to travel to Tibet by train, said You Yong of the Tibet Tourism Bureau in Shanghai. Currently, a six-day tour of Tibet costs about 7,000 yuan, with the return air fare costing 3,000 yuan alone. “Now the whole tour will only be around 3,000 yuan if tourists take the train,” said You. Foreign travelers are welcome on the train, but they must first get a permit to enter Tibet, according to You. The permits cost US$500 each. Travelers from Tibet also need permits, while those from Hong Kong and Macau can enter Tibet by showing their passports. Some travel agencies in the city wonder if the amount of time needed to travel to Tibet and back by train will limit the number of people interested in the trip. “The entire trip will extend to about 10 days,” said Qin Long, a spokesperson from China International Travel. “Tourists from Shanghai might not want to spend so much time on the train.” In addition to the ordinary travel package, China’s first luxury train service will start between Beijing and Tibet in the first half of 2007, the Shanghai-based service operator said yesterday. RailPartners, a unit of hospitality and leisure company TZG Partners, has signed an agreement with Qinghai-Tibet Railway Co, a company under the Ministry of Railways, to form a joint venture to operate the service. The trip, which costs US$1,000 a night on the train, includes a luxury suit, in-room dining, butler service, and massage, the company said. Each train will accommodate 100 passengers in suites featuring king-sized beds, baths and showers.

Tibetan Tourism Welcomes Its Golden Season Aug. 4, 2005 – From August to October each year, Tibet has the most pleasant climate and the highest percentage of oxygen, making it the best season for travel.Reporter learned from Southwest Airlines that, in order to satisfy travelers’ demand of traveling to Tibet, made a prompt new arrangement on the capacity, increasing sharply the capacity of routes to Lhasa.

Revamped Potala Palace Square Opens in Mid-July July 7, 2005 – The Potala Palace Square expansion and renovation project in Lhasa, Tibet, has entered its final stage. It should be completed by mid-July in time for celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region on September 1…