Shigatse, the Rich Manor of Tibet
- by Caroline
- Last Updated: 2017-08-30
Regarding Shigatse, there are two concepts, one is the Shigatse City, the second largest city in Tibet Autonomous Region, another is Shigatse Prefecture, which has an area of 182 thousand of kilometers and with an average elevation of 4,000 meters (13,124 feet). Shigatse Prefecture is called as the traditional Tibetan region of Tsang, and Shigatse City is the capital and center of it. There are five peaks higher than 5,500 meters (18,045 feet) located in the Shigatse Prefecture, including the highest mountain in the world - Mt. Everest, on the border of Nepal and China. That’s why Shigatse Prefecture was used to be the most popular stopover for foreigners who traveled to Tibet from Nepal by following the famous Friendship Highway during the past 30 years.
The population of Shigatse Prefecture was already more than 720 thousand by 2014. Due to the special location, where the Yarlung Tsangpo River and Nyang Chu River gathered together, Shigatse Prefecture has the most fertile land surrounded by high mountains. Coupled with the gentle weather, it formed the best farming area compared with the other prefectures in Tibet. So, the Tibetan people call it “the Rich Manor” as well. The climate of Shigatse is very suitable for living. In summer, the average temperature is 21C (70F) in the daytime and 10C (50F) in the night. Even in winter, it can be 7C (50F) when there is the sunshine. So, it’s a place where you can travel all year round.
The History of Shigatse
Dated back to the 15th. Century, Shigatse was directly ruled by two Dzongpons (the old leaders of Tibetan tribes) who were appointed by the central government in Lhasa. After that, there was a long-disordered time in the history of Shigatse, when it was divided into more than 50 districts called Dzongs, which belonged to different chiefs. This situation lasted for more than 5 hundred years until 1951, the Liberation of Tibet occurred and finally, the Chinese government set up Shigatse Prefecture formed by one city Shigatse and another 17 counties. As the capital city of this prefecture, Shigatse City is 3,848 meters (12,625 feet) above sea level and with a population of over 100 thousand, which makes it no doubt to be the political, economic, and religious center of Shigatse Prefecture. Above all, it’s also the seat of Panchen Lama, the second important spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism comes after Dalai Lama.
Attractions in Shigatse
Except for Mt. Everest, the most attractive tour site in Shigatse is Tashilhunpo Monastery, which was built in 1447. It is the largest monastery in Shigatse Prefecture and one of the top four Gelugpa Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Tibet. The other three are all in Lhasa City, Drepung, Sera, and Ganden. As the home of Panchen Lama, it used to have thousands of monks. Up to now, around 600 monks are still living there. The funerary stupa of the first Dalai Lama, the only one not entombed in Lhasa, is honored in the monastery. Besides, there is a giant statue of the Maitreya Buddha with a height of 26.2 meters, which is the highest cupreous sitting Buddha in the world.
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