Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, has a prefecture
area of 30,000 square kilometers and its Tibetan name means "The
Land of the Gods". It sits on the north bank of River Lhasa, a
tributary of the Yarlung Tsangbo River, at an altitude of 3,700
meters. It has a history of over 13 centuries. With more than 3,000
hours of sunshine annually, Lhasa is famed as "the City of
Sunshine". It is the center of Tibet's political, economic,
cultural and religious activities. There are many historic sites
and famous relics in the city proper and its suburbs, among which
the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Drepung Monastery, Sera
Monastery and Gandan Monastery are world famous.
Before the mid-seventh century when Lhasa, later the central city
of the Tibetan region, was yet to come into prominence, the area
was called Wotang, a marshy land of wildness, frequented by
antelopes. On one bright summer day, Songtsan Gampo, leader of the
Tubo tribe, who had risen to power in the Yarlung River Valley, was
struck by the advantageous position of an area flanked by two steep
mountains, while bathing in the Lhasa River, and decided that this
was to be the home of his kingdom.
This ambitious Tibetan king moved the center of his rule to Wotang
and ordered the construction of his Potala Palace residence on
In 641 AD, Songtsan Gampo, who by this time had conquered the whole
Tibetan region wedded Princess Wencheng of the Imperial Tang Court.
When the princess arrived, she became convinced that Lake Wotang
was a devil's heart to be overpowered by the construction of a
grand temple after filling up the lake with earth. The princess
further suggested that the earth be carried by white goats. This
imposing grand temple became a symbol of the kingdom. The temple,
later known as Jokhang, was initially named Lhasa.
Over the centuries, Lhasa (the city) became the political and
religious center of Tibet. Administrative orders were issued from
the imposing palaces. The great temples and monasteries were home
the seemingly omnipotent liturgical establishment and witnessed the
rise of many religious leaders and endless religious ceremonies. As
the city became the focus of faith for the Tibetan population,
Lhasa became the "Mecca" of Tibet.
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