One of the treasured destinations, Lhasa, is rooted in the panoramic Himalayan Mountains. Lhasa means ‘Place of Gods’ and the tremendous religious atmosphere is evident, the moment you arrive in the city. It is the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in China. Apart from its natural beauty, history, culture, and traditions, it has a unique style of architecture. The old city of Lhasa is where the soul lies. Different eras have impacted architecture in different styles, evolving from Buddhist monasteries and palaces both aesthetically and scientifically. The geography and climate prominently influence Tibetan architecture; hence most of the structures are built on elevated and sunny sites facing south. Flat roofs and numerous windows preserve sunlight. Walls are sloping inwards at 10 degrees as a precaution against frequent earthquakes in the mountainous area. The white stone tower is a common sight. Colors signify a deeper meaning in Tibetan architecture. Red and Yellow colors are sacred, used only for temples and Buddhist residence.
Here are 15 places architects must visit in Lhasa
The Potala Palace, a World Heritage Site, is a significant symbol of Tibetan architecture. Potala in the Mongolian language implies a home for Dalai Lamas. Overlooking Lhasa at an altitude of 3,656 meters, this human-made marvel depicts the bold architecture entirely in harmony with the natural scenery of the Mapori Hill. An absolute gem in the center of Lhasa Valley, the Palace is a religious and administrative fortress of Tibet. The administrative quarters, the hall of Lamas, a vast library of Buddhist Scriptures, 10,000 shrines, and Chapels constitute the White Palace, the Red Palace, and adjoining buildings.
Norbulingka or “Jewel Park” Palace spread over an area of 360,000 square meters, has the best landscapes in the region with the most extensive and lively gardens in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. A World Cultural Heritage Site – recognized by UNESCO in 2001, Norbulingka is known to be the summer palace of Dalai Lamas. The remarkable architecture of the Palace reflects the religious and ethnic aspects of Tibetan tribes. The famous Shoton Festival is held at Norbulingka every year in the first week of July.
3. Jakhong Temple
With non-traditional east-west orientation facing towards Nepal, Jakhong Temple is the glorious combination of Nepali elements, and Tang features inspired by the aesthetics of Ethnic Han. An area of 25,100 square meters, dedicated for more than 20 palaces and sanctuaries, captures your first sight with a beautiful courtyard at the entrance. Embellished with deer and wheel motifs, gilded rooftop with its bronzed tiles shining under the sky invites you from distant.
4. Tibet Museum
A pioneering institution depicting Tibetan culture, history, and art is an elegant unification of Chinese and Tibetan architectural styles, designed by a Han Chinese architect from Sichuan Province. Not only, the museum is beautified with colorful ornamented beams, pillars, lintels banners, and wall hangings but is equipped with modern facilities for quality service, effective administration, and safety of visitors. Exhibiting folk art, treasures, scriptures, and craft of the region, the museum houses a splendid collection of prehistoric cultural relics.
5. Sera Monastery
Resided in the northern suburb of Lhasa, Sera monastery is one the most prominent building complexes in Tibet since 1419. Structures within the monastery reflect a Gelugpa-stylebalance among diversity, orderliness, and compactness, thus making it a citadel of religion. The monastery occupies 28 acres of land, houses temples and halls, residence quarters of monks, stupas, and several institutions.
6. Drepung Monastery
Forming a vital part of Tibetan Buddhist history, Drepung is one of the ‘Three Great Monasteries’ (the other two being Ganden Monastery and Sera Monastery). ‘Drepung,’ in the Tibetan language, means ‘collecting rice,’ which appears to be relevant due to its grand white construction like a heap of rice. It is designed on the caves and temples; the buildings are centered at pagodas.
7. Ganden Monastery
Among the “great three” Gelug university monasteries of Tibet, Ganden is an enormous and spectacular architectural complex reflecting traditional Tibetan monastic style, spread over the Wangbur Mountain.
The structure stands out in the natural valley holding its essence in beautiful murals, sculptures, and precious historical artifacts.
8. Drolma Lhakhang
Drolma Lhakhang, the temple honoring master Atisha, is a notable example of Tibetan Buddhism. It is a small monastery, with ancient antique and hidden treasures, prominently showing theguardian deities at the entrance and exit. An inner kora (parikrama) surrounding the main chapels is a holy feature of this monastery.
9. DrakYerpa Caves
With eye-capturing red and white halls scattered in the valley encompassing incredible landscape, DrakYerpa is amongst three well-known meditation centers and a retreat in Central Tibet. DrakYerpa mainly consists of ancient meditation caves for the Lamas to meditate, and a monastery with white pagodas standing for the pilgrims to kora around one-by-one.
10. Ramoche Monastery
Built in the same era, Ramoche Monastery, known to be the sister of Jakhong Temple depicts the Chinese style of architecture. The murals reminding of a combination of Han and Tibet style give a feeling of wonder to the visitors.The golden roof of Jokhang temple and Potala Palace can be seen from the rear hall of the Ramoche temple.
Burgeoning from a steep hill and making a narrow path up to the monastic complex, the monastery views into the Chorong-Chu Valley.
The central courtyard houses a majestic bronze statue of Protector AbchiChudu and gives 180-degree mind-blowing views of the serene surroundings.
12. Tidrum Nunnery
Located in the narrow canyon, at the junction of two streams, Tidrum Nunnery charms the surrounding valley with its festooned prayer flags. Crystal clear water of the medicinal hot-springs, girded with wooden canopies, is believed to have magical healing powers.
13. Barkhor Bazaar
An epitome of Tibet, Barkhor street is the most unique and attractive place, preserving the original style of the old city of Lhasa. The historic site for more than 1300 years is a flourishing shopping street and a popular stop for worldwide travelers. A two-story building, MakyeAme, where the sixth Dalai Lama lived is a highlight of the road.
14. Mindrolling Monastery
Mindrolling Monastery, meaning a “Place of Perfect Emancipation” in Tibetan, is one of the six major monasteries of Nyingma School in Tibet. Having persistently sustained substantial damages by Mongols in the 18th Century and Chinese Communist Rule in the 20th Century, it is still undergoing re-construction in Tibet.
Nalendra Monastery in the northeast of Lhasa, built by the master RongtonShejeKunrig in 1435, is the main monastery of Cha Sect (a sect belonging to Saga Sect), where Yogis practice for the lifetime. The statue of Rongtonpa in a glass case highlights the main hall. Some temples within its umbrella are still under construction.