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s the second largest city in Tibet, Shigatse, also known as Xigatse, is the home to the famous Tashillhunpo Monastery. Shigatse literally means "fertile land". Built in 1147 this is the seat of the very important Panchen Lamas. A Tibetan adventure wouldn't be complete without getting to know a monk or two. Have your guide engage a monk in conversation. They are always very friendly and quite enjoy knowing where their visitors are from. Feel free to ask them questions about their monastery or religion, remembering to be sensitive to subjects they are not allowed to discuss. Nuns too are a bright note to any Tibetan holiday. There is a wonderful nunnery in Kanbula Nature Reserve in the Qinghai province and I'm sure many others to welcome you.
As the second largest city in Tibet, Shigatse is the home to the famous Tashillhunpo Monastery. This huge and magnificent monastery is the biggest monastery of Gelugpa or yellow hat sect in Tibet. Build in 1147 this is the seat of the very important Panchen Lamas.
To the south of this region are the borders of Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan. The region of Shigatse is a vast land mass located in the southern portion of Tibet. This are is called Tsang by Tibetans. It covers an area of 182,000 square kilometers (around 4,497,319 acres - pretty darn huge!) The main city is Shigatse City, a great mid-size city with lots to see and do. Leave an afternoon for shopping and checking out the cool tourist cafes near the monastery. In Shigatse region there are seventeen provinces, including Gyantse, Sakya, Tingri and the port of Zhangmu/Khasa. Shigatse has a population of over 80,000, of which 97% are Tibetan, making it very interesting.

The city sits at a junction of the Yarlung Tsangpo River and the Nyangchu River. After the first Dalai Lama built the Tashilhunpo monastery in 1477, the city became the political, religious, economic and cultural center of Tibet.

Besides the Tashilhunpo Monastery, be sure to visit Palkhor Monastery, Shalu Monastery and Sakya Monastery nearby, if you have the time.

Palkhor Monastery
The monastery is famous for it's unique architecture and the 'Bodhi Stupa' or 'Kumbum'. Built in the year 1427, the monastery has gained the position as the Lord of Tibetan Stupas. The Palkhor monastery is a classical example of age old Tibetan monasteries as it houses both, a temple and a Stupa. What you would find most interesting can be the mural paintings on the wall that depicts stories of Buddha. You will notice that the painting style in this monastery is quite different from paintings that one seen in other monasteries. Visit the monastery on 15th of April according to Tibetan calendar Saka Dawa festival is celebrated, the birthday of Sakyamuni. An absolute gala, to say the least. The monastery is open from 9 in the morning till 4 in the evening.

Shalu Monastery
The monastery of Shalu was founded by Chetsun Sherab Jungnay in the region of Nyangro near the present day town of Shigatse. In the early fourteenth century it became the most important centre of learning under Butön Rinpoche (1290-1364 ), one of Tibet's greatest scholars. There he brought together the one hundred and eight volumes of the fundamental texts of Buddhism, the Kanjur, and the two hundred volumes of "treaties and commentaries", the Tenjur. At the same time he supervised the execution of 499 tantric mandalas, a few of which can be still seen in two chapels on the first floor. In 1305, Butön Rinpoche advised Prince Drakpa Gyaltsen to extend the monastery, following which Shalu was decorated by Tibetan and Nepalese artists who had been trained in the Mongol imperial workshops under the famous Newari master, Arniko (1245-1306). Due to Butön's activity, the monastery became one of the most important centers of study in Tibet, continuing on as an influential, non-sectarian monastery for centuries to come. The association has adopted the name of Shalu, as an exceptional repository of Tibetan religious art, and in memory of this great Buddhist teacher. more

Sakya Monastery
Sakya Monastery is the first monastery of Sakyapa Sect. Like other monasteries, this one is also famous for its uniqueness. The monastery is more than 900 years old and has the collection of few of the most valuable pieces of Tibetan history. Most important of all are the handwritten sutras of about 3000 in number. The main attraction of the monastery is the central hall called Lakhang Chenmo Hall. The name of the monastery means 'Grey Soil' because of its surroundings heavily dominated by grey color. The monastery is open from 9 AM to 12 noon and reopens at 2 PM till 6.30 PM

The Tashilhunpo is huge and will take a good day to see it properly. If you have to choose one, this would be it. Bring your camera!

The national handicraft industry produces items very unique in style and quality. You can also find locally made carpets, traditional wears, Tibetan knives, gold and silver ware, silk covers for cushions, traditional bracelets, and very unique unique boots!


Nearby is Gyantse. You'll pass this quaint little city (old trade route) between Lhasa and Shigatse.

Gyantse is often referred to as the "Hero City". It was a place of a major battle between Tibetans and British troops. During the expedition of British Colonel Younghusband in 1904, the 500 soldiers of the Gyantse fort resisted in a siege of several weeks, before they were overcome by the superior equipment of the British. The town still has the feel of a frontier town, with horses and yaks on the main streets. It was nearly destroyed in 1954 and was largely emptied of people by the Chinese in 1959. 
The skyline is dominated by the somewhat dilapidated 14th century fortress (Dzong) and long snake of fortress walls, but it sure does offer fantastic views of the town and the famous Kumbum and lush green valleys. Enjoy watching the "traffic", carts, buggies, yaks, animal-pulled wagons, a constant flow of people getting their jobs done. Enjoy a stroll and take particular interest in the arches and architecture, the colors of the shops, and stop by the park under the fortress.

Kumbum Stupa
Kumbum Stupa is one of the most distinctive temples in the world. It is an unusual architectural masterpiece with its nine levels rise in the manner of a step pyramid. Its construction started in 1418 and it was completed in 1427. It is designed in classic stupa or pagoda style.
The  word Kumbum literally means 10,000 images and according to its name Kumbum stupa contains 10,000 murals some of which are dates back to 15 century and still in tact. These images include Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Vajras, Dharma Kings, Arhats, Disciples, great adepts of different orders in Tibetan Buddhist history, and outstanding figures in Tibetan history such as Songtsen Gampo and Trisong Detsen. It was an important centre of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism and still considered as one of the most outstanding and sacred places of Tibet. This amazing structure is 35 meters in height, octagonal in shape, has a 9 storey terraced exterior, 108 chapels, and superb murals (wall paintings). It raises over four symmetrical floors plus two upper floors and is capped with a gold dome. The four floors contain 108 chapels which the pilgrims visit.

The Pelkor Chöde monastery is well worth half a day or more. Allow extra time for hiking up to the fortress. The views are well worth the effort! Especially grand is sunset! more

With its rich cultural tradition, majestic monasteries, breath-taking scenery and convenient location, Shigatse has become on of the most popular tourist destination in Tibet. Don't miss it!

























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