Looked pretty awesome as well. On the road back to Lhasa from Shigatse, my guide left the highway for some side roads. We were about one hour from Lhasa, just off the Friendship Highway. Even from the highway you can see these flowers. This patch was the tallest I saw. My guide tells me they are Canola flowers. Canola oil is made from the seeds of this plant. It was an awesome experience to see and smell!
This is a huge monastery with a lot of pilgrims. The cobble stone road walking into the monastery is great. There are a number of prayer wheels on the right. A tour on your own is not as well organized has many other monasteries in Tibet. You are pretty much on your own after you enter.
2013 Update: Its interesting to see what I wrote in 2006. Of course now you can only enter with a guide. They have constructed a new entrance gate so no more walking up that road.
More updates to come.
Like any other Kora, this circumnavigates the Potala. Many locals and pilgrims walk or prostrate the Kora daily. Most people start from either front corner of the Potala. Walk clockwise and continue until you reach where you started. There are many prayer wheels along the way. My arm actually got tired and I had to stop. But I kept walking the Kora. Spinning the prayer wheels is not a requirement.
This is the smallest monastery I every visited. It is situated in the heart of Lhasa old town section, near Jokhang. As you walk in, there is a man monitoring who enters. He is a nice guy and saw I was carrying an old Lonely Planet Tibet guide book. He pointed at it and I offer to let him see it. When he open the front page, somehow he recognized the Dali Lama's signature in a forward he wrote for the book. The man became very excited and began to touch the book to his head. All though he couldn't read a word, he was trying to sound out the type and would repeat touch the book to his head as a sign of respect and to transfer the Dali Lama's words to his thought. It was an incredible moment. I was permitted to take a few photos but it is very small. Still worth a visit.
For full write up & photos, please visit my blog: http://www.aspirantsg.com/travel-holidays/drepung-monastery-of-collecting-rice-tibet/singapore or follow me on twitter for other travel reviews: https://twitter.com/AspirantSG
Drepung Monastery is located at the foot of Mount Gephel, it is one of the Great 3 Gelukpa University Monasteries. The other two are Ganden and Sera Monastery. It is comparable to NUS status with the 2 universities in Singapore.
Boosting an area of 250,000 square meters, it held over 7,000 monks, 100 fazendas and 500 pastures in its heyday. From far, its grand, white facade makes it seems like a heap of rice hence it was named 'Drepung Monastery' which means Monastery of Collecting Rice in Tibetan.
We saw a man selling and burning some kind of dry grass while we begin our ascend up the monastry. The smoke from the burning was believed to be of religious purpose, good for health and to keep away harmful insects.
I really have to hand it to the monks there. They are able to stand the extreme cold while wearing so little. Many children you see along the road up to the temple are not a beggers. They makes money by helping tourist break their large notes into smaller ones for offerings in the temple.
The beautiful Tibetan streetscape does have some resemblance to that of the Europeans.
Intricate painted wall murals found on the temple walls are one of the greatest expressions of Tibetan art.
After Drepung, we were supposed to set off to Sera Monastery to see the a session of monks debating amongst themselves. That unfortunately did not materialise as the rain continued and the monks well....with no outdoor venue for the debate decided to give themselves a break.
I was quite relieved that we are giving Sera a miss. Because by late afternoon, I was having a very bad diarrhea.... Hence while the rest are happily going shopping at Barkhor Street, I rushed back to clear my bowel and get some rest before dinner and Tibetian Cultural Performance in the evening.
You may also like to check out my posts on other exciting travel destinations here: http://www.aspirantsg.com/travel-list-singapore
For full write up & photos, please visit my blog: http://www.aspirantsg.com/travel-holidays/tibet-norbulingka-summer-palace-of-dalai-lamas/singapore or follow me on twitter for other travel reviews: https://twitter.com/AspirantSG
Shortly after The Potala Palace, our tour group made way to Norbulingka Park, garden to the Summer Palace of the Dalai Lamas where they solved the political problems and held festive celebrations. Today, it has been turned into a park open to the public.
Performances used to be held at the open area infront of this building where the Dalai Lama watched from the small window above.
Norbulingka (Treasure Park in Tibetan) lies about one km southwest of the Potala Palace. With a gigantic land area of 360,000 square meters, the park is the largest man-made garden in Tibet. In fact, there is even a small zoo within the garden premises but due to time constraints, we gave it a miss.
The gardens offers great picnic spots and provided wonderful venue for theatre, dancing and festivals, particularly the Sho Dun or 'Yoghurt Festival', at the beginning of August.
To fully appreciate the beauty of the Norbulingka garden, we have keep in mind the hostile climate of the Tibetian plateau. Many of the flowering plants found in the gardens found in the areas are not originally available in Tibet. A typical tibetian will never have the chance to view these flowers in bloom and a large well planned garden is very much considered a sheer luxury enjoyed only by the Dalai Lamas.
The main clock in the Summer Palace is said to have stopped at the exact time when the 14th Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India after the Chinese invasion and failed uprising in 1959. Do let me know the time when it stopped, I have cleaned forgotten about it.
You may also like to check out my posts on other exciting travel destinations here: http://www.aspirantsg.com/travel-list-singapore
For full experience write up & photos, please visit my blog: http://www.aspirantsg.com/travel-holidays/jokhang-tibet-first-buddhist-temple/singapore or follow me on twitter for food reviews: https://twitter.com/AspirantSG
The Jokhang Temple is the first Buddhist temple in Tibet, located on Barkhor Square (a great shopping street not to be missed) in Lhasa. It was built during the reign of King Songsten Gampo (605-650 CE) to celebrate his marriage with Chinese Tang Dynasty Princess Wen Cheng, who was a Buddhist. For most Tibetans it is the most sacred and important temple in Tibet.
The lives of Tibetians revolved around Buddhism and many Tibetians believed in making long-distance prostrating pilgrimage of minimum 10,000 prostrations from their respective home village to Jokhang Temple once in their lifetime. An example of prostration can be seen in the video below:
Unfortunately, harsh tibetian climate and insufficient rest coupled with lack of food, water and medical care lead to a significant numbers of deaths on the journey. However, all is not lost for these ill-fated pilgrims. Future pilgrims passing by will extract a tooth from the remains and carry it with them as they perform their long-distance prostrating pilgrimage to Jokhang Temple. Once the pilgrim reach the temple, he / she will deposit the tooth on one of the main pillars supporting the temple signifying that the deceased pilgrim has fulfilled his / her pilgrimage to the holy temple.
What happen to the rest of the body? Nothing more was mentioned by the tour guide and the tour group was more than happy to leave it as that.
You can actually see the Potala Palace from the temple roof top platform
It's a pity that tourists were not allowed to take photos of the temple's interiors where they house the Buddha statues. I suppose you have to visit Tibet to see it for yourself.
You may also like to check out my posts on other exciting travel destinations in Tibet here: http://www.aspirantsg.com/travel-list-singapore
For full experience write up & photos, please visit my blog: http://www.aspirantsg.com/travel-holidays/potala-palace-tombs-of-past-dalai-lamas-lhasa-tibet/singapore or follow me on twitter for food reviews: https://twitter.com/AspirantSG
Built on Marpo Ri hill at 130 meters above the Lhasa valley, Potala palace is indisputable the grandest monumental structure in all of Tibet. The palace measures 400 metres east-west and 350 metres north-south with stone walls of 3 - 5 metres thick at the base and copper poured into its foundation to make it earthquakes proof. The 13 storey building contains over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and about 200,000 statues
The palace serves a number of functions:
1. Residence of the Dalai Lama and his large number of staffs
2. Represented the Tibetan government, where all state ceremonies were held
3. Hosted a school for religious training of monks and administrators
4. Home to the tombs of past Dalai Lamas and the most venerated statue, the Arya Lokeshvara inside the Phapka Lhakhang.
Today the Potala Palace has been converted into a museum by the Chinese government.
Security was very tight, tourists were made to undergo checks for weapons, flammable liquids etc and the worst thing is that all tourists were only given 1 hour to explore the entire massive building. The upwards climb was exhausting ....
A series of tolerable staircases, broken by intervals of gentle ascent, leading to the white palace.
The White Palace or Portrang Karpo (part of Potala Palace) is the living quarters of his holiness, the Dalai Lama.
The Red Palace or Potrang Marpo (another part of the Potala palace), is completely devoted to religious study and Buddhist prayer. Unfortunately, as a sign of respect to the religion, tourists were not allow to take photos inside the chapels.
Our guide named Xiao Gu was very versed in his knowledge and gave fantasic narrations of the palace history, the various buddha status, functions of the various rooms in palace as well as the lives and achievements of past Dalai Lamas. Surprisely, even with such detailed narrations, an hour proves to be just right.
The way down was a lot more relaxed. We went back for the beautiful night view of the palace few days later.
You may also like to check out my posts on other exciting travel destinations in Lhasa here: http://www.aspirantsg.com/travel-list-singapore
The summer palace of the 13th Dalai Lama is one of the four the interiors of which we were able to visit. The layout is similar to the other ones, containing both secular (Dalai Lama's private rooms) and religious (assembly hall, meditation chamber) rooms. The assembly hall holds a throne on which the Dalai Lama received both pilgrims and officials.
There is also a curious collection of the means of transportation that the 13th Dalai Lama owned, including buggies, palanquins, and bicycles. There was also a car, famously given by the British government as a present. Who singularly failed to take into account the fact that, firstly, Tibet had no petrol and, secondly, that getting petrol there was prohibitively expensive.
In the westen part of the Norbulingka park
We did this monastery on our first exploring day after a hearty breakfast we walked with our tour guide and right when he opened the curtain to go in I heard the most beautiful voices praying in unison. It was absolutely compelling and peaceful.
Inside the Potala Palace, there are eight stupa-tomb chapels - each housing a three-tier stupa monument where the relics of the Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, and the Thirteenth Dalai Lamas are buried (the stupa of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama stands separately from the others and you need to be with either a monk or a guide to access it). The stupa funeral was unique to high ranking lamas - even holy people were usually buried following the traditional practice of sky burial.
The stupas themselves are richly decorated with ornamental motifs, as well as amber, pearl, coral, agate, diamond and other precious stones, as well as gold foil and sandalwood.
Stupa of the 5th Dalai Lama was the first to be built and is still the largest, reaching to almost 50 feet. It holds mummified and perfumed body of the Fifth Dalai Lama, as well as Buddhist relics, including the thumb of Sakyamuni, the Supreme Buddha.
The principal centre of the Buddhist worship in Tibet, the Jokhang houses over 3,250 statues of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, guardians and historical figures, with some dating back to as far as the 7th Century and the reign of the King Sangtsen Gampo. Majority of these originate from India and Nepal, as well as Tibet itself. The most important of these is the image of the Sakyamuni Buddha at the age of 12, housed in the chapel of Jowo Sakyamuni. Another important image is the statue of Chenresing (or Avalokiteshvara), which is considered to be the second holiest after the Jowo Sakyamuni.
In addition, there are over 1,250 tangkhas (religious paintings), over 500 stupas and countless other religious objects. Pretty much all of the most important images, artefacts and chapels are located in the inner sanctum of the Jokhang.
The Red Palace was begun several years after the death of the great 5th Dalai Lama, originally to house the stupa chapel that would house his remains. Further stupa chapels were added in later years. In addition to these, there are numerous Buddha chapels and sutra halls. For somebody used to the Western European planning and building regulations, it's hard to believe that the entire Red Palace was completed only in about 4 years.
While the White Palace is the administrative part, the Red Palace is entirely devoted to religion and prayer, and incorporates the holiest locations in the Potala Palace - the Saint's Chapel and King Songtsen's cave.
There are 4 further substantial chapels (West, East, South and North), as well as Great West Hall.
Chogyal Drubphuk chapel is the other ancient part of the Potala palace, also said to date back to the reign of King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. According to tradition, the chapel was the site of the cave where the King meditated (he was considered to be an incarnation of Bodhisattva Chenresing - an earlier legend tells of a cave that, in more ancient times, was the abode of Chenresing, and it was on the site of the present-day Potala palace). His statue (in a red turban, with the head of Amitabha emerging from the top) is the centrepiece of the chapel.
Songtsen Gampo's statue is flanked by the statues of two of his three wives, the Chinese wife Princess Wencheng (the taller figure in blue and gold garments) and the Nepalese wife Bhrikuti Devi
Part of the White Palace, Phakpa Lhakhang (Saint's Chapel or the Lokeshvara Chapel) is one of the two oldest surviving structures in the Potala Palace (the other is Chogyal Drubphuk), said to date back to the 7th century and the rule of King Songtsen Gampo.
It is also home to Potala's holiest image - the Arya Lokeshvara, and is usually one of the most crowded chapels in the building (and unfortunately, one of the smallest). There are also numerous other relics, such as the footprints of Padmasambhava (better known as Guru Rinpoche) from the rocks of Gungtang La pass.
There is so much to do in Lhasa. Some things that should not be missed are the monasteries. Sera Monastery usually has the most going on with debating monks every day at around 3pm...