Lhasa is world-famous for its sites of historical interest related to Buddhism, such as the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, and more. The Tibetan ethnic group have a long history in this region and rich culture to go with it.
Lhasa, meaning “the Sacred Land” or “Buddha place” in the Tibetan language, has been the cultural, economic, political and religious center of Tibet since ancient times. Tibet was a theocratic state and Potala Palace was the symbol of the theocratic regime many centuries ago.
However, with the peaceful liberation of Tibet on May 23, 1951, the theocratic ended and Lhasa entered a new era. In 1960, the State Council officially approved Lhasa as a prefecture-level city. In 1982 Lhasa was selected as one of the state level historical and cultural cities.
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Lhasa, the capital of Tibet Autonomous Region, has a history of more than 1,300 years and is the cultural, economic, political and transit center of the region. It covers an area of 30,000 square kilometers and its downtown is 59 square kilometers. The total population of Lhasa is close to 1 million people, among which the Tibetan ethnic group makes up 87%.
Lhasa was named “Re Sa” in ancient Tibet. In the Tibetan language, goat is “Re” and earth is “Sa”. In the seventh century CE, Songtsen Gampo moved his capital to Lhasa and the powerful Tubo kingdom was established after unifying the whole of Tibet.
At that point, Tibetans set about building Great Brightness Temple and Little Brightness Temple. After the completion of these two temples, monks and pilgrims gradually came to reside at Lhasa. By the 640s, 18 hospices had been erected near Great Brightness Temple for pilgrims from afar and the houses of many local residents had also risen nearby, forming the beginning of the old quarter of the Lhasa centering around what is now know as the Octagon Street.
Meanwhile Songtsen Gampo built an extension onto his palace, i.e. Potala Palace. This world-famous plateau city came into being and “Re Sa” gradually became known as “the Sacred Land”.
Lhasa boasts some of the best food compared with other places in Tibet. The food can be divided into Tibetan food, Sichuan cuisine and western-style cuisine. Nepalese and Indian food are also available in some restaurants. The flavor of Tibetan food is light and not very greasy. Any spicy ingredients are not added in the food except garlic and green onions.
Lhasa has some food streets which you can taste authentic Tibetan food where visitors can try a taste of local Tibetan cuisine such as Yak beef, buttered tea, and Tsampa, etc. Deji Road which contains about 100 restaurants is the most popular dining place among locals. Western-style restaurants can be found in Beijing Road and Barkhor Street.
In Lhasa, the most popular souvenirs are Tibetan artworks, Tibetan medical herbs and traditional Tibetan knitting. The most attractive souvenirs for tourists include Thangka and religious objects such as prayer wheels.
Barkhor Street is a famous shopping center where all sorts of traditional Tibetan handicrafts, such as traditional clothes, Thangka, Tibetan carpet, can be easily found. Remember that bargaining is permitted with shopkeeper when you buy souvenirs in Barkhor Street. But there is shopping mall nearby Barkhor Street in which the handicrafts are inexpensive and of good quality.