Gyama Valley(甲玛乡), 60km east of Lhasa, is famed as the birthplace of Tibet’s greatest king, Songtsen Gampo, who lived here until he became king at the age of 15. It’s an easy detour if you are headed for Drigung Til Monastery, or pleasant place to explore on bike.

From the main highway it’s 2km south to the Gyelpo Gongkar, a chapel just east of the tarmac road and dedicated to Songtsen Gampo and his two wives. On his left is Nepali wife Bhrikuti Didev and on his right is Chinese wife Princess Wencheng. The original building dates from the 7th century and resembles a small Yumbulagang.

From here it’s 3km up the valley to the Rajye Ling Monastery and , in the compound behind, the huge Kadam-style funeral chorten of Sangye On (1251-96), a master of the Talung School and founder of the Riwoche Tsuglhakhang. At the time of research, bulldozers were moving huge mounds of earth around the site as part of a plan to beautify the monastery grounds.

Rajye Ling Monastery boasts some fine murals and a stone mantra that is said to have appeared naturally at the moment of Songtsen Gampo’s birth. You may be slightly confused upon entry because although this is in fact a monastery it is cared for by two nuns. The main statue is a 1000-arm , 1000-eye Avalokiteshrava.

From Rajye Ling Monastery, head back down the main road and turn left towards the new Tibetan-style building with the chimney-like tower. The building was under construction at the time of research it was destined to be a Songtsen Gampo Museum. Just beyond the new museum are three Dumburi choetens and the nearby shrine and nature springs that mark the Birthplace of Songtsen Gampo. Archaeologists have linked the nearby ruins of Jampa Mingyur Ling to the palace that Songtsen Gampo’s father built after leaving the Chongye Valley.

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