Gyantse, Tibet

Gyantse was historically considered the third largest and most prominent town in the Tibet region, after Lhasa, and Shigatse. The town is strategically located in the Nyang Chu valley on the ancient trade routes from the Chumbi Valley, Yatung and Sikkim, which met here.

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Gyantse is notable for its restored Gyantse Dzong or fort, and its magnificent tiered Kumbum, literally meaning 100,000 images of the Palcho Monastery, the largest chörten in Tibet. The Kumbum was commissioned by a Gyantse prince in 1427 and was an important centre of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism.

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The Kumbum contains 77 chapels in its six floors, and is illustrated with over 10,000 murals, many showing a strong Nepali influence, which have survived almost entirely intact. They are the last of its kind to be found in Tibet. Many of the restored clay statues are of less artistry than the destroyed originals – but they are still spectacular. The main building of the Pelkor Chode or Palcho Monastery and the Kumbum have been largely restored but the dzong or fort is still largely in ruins.

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