Namtso, or Heavenly Lake, is considered one of the three holy lakes in Tibet and famous for its high altitude, 4720 meters, vast area, 1961 square kilometers and beautiful scenery.
Being the second largest saltwater lake in China only after Qinghai Lake, it is the highest altitude saltwater lake in the world. The water here is a storybook crystal-clear blue.
Namtso Lake maintains its levels from rainfall and melted snow flowing from high mountains. Five islands stand in the water area, among which the largest one is Liangduo island. In addition another five bylands stretch into the water from different directions. Zhaxi byland is the largest in area of these five. A great many bizarre stone peaks can be found on this byland. Some of them are like trunks; some look like human beings; some resemble trees. Various kinds of vivid shapes can easily arouse your imagination. At the same time there are many quiet grottos which are masterpieces of nature. Some grottos are narrow and long like subways; some are full of stalactites; still, others are like louvers. Queer rocks, steep peaks, natural stone ladders and other landform wonders on Zhaxi byland present visitors a picture filled with mystery and enchantment.
Besides the beautiful scenery, the place is also a famous sacred Buddhist site. There is a Zhaxi Temple in Zhaxi byland. In every Tibetan year of sheep, thousands of Buddhism adherents will come here to worship. As a rule, they will walk clockwise along the lake in order to receive the blessing of the gods.
Located on a hill in the center of the city, the full name in Tibetan of the monastery means: all fortune and happiness gathered here” or “heap of glory”. Tashilhunpo Monastery was founded in 1447 by Gendun Drup, the First Dalai Lama, is a historic and culturally important monastery next to Shigatse, the second-largest city in Tibet. It was sacked when the Gurkhas invaded Tibet and captured Shigatse in 1791 before a combined Tibetan and Chinese army drove them back as far as the outskirts of Kathmandu, when they were forced to agree to keep the peace in future, pay tribute every five years, and return what they had looted from Tashilhunpo.
The monastery is the traditional seat of successive Panchen Lamas, the second highest ranking tulku lineage in the Gelukpa tradition. The “Tashi” or Panchen Lama had temporal power over three small districts, though not over the town of Shigatse itself, which was administered by a dzongpön (prefect) appointed from Lhasa.
The Sakya Monastery is the principal monastery of the Sakyapa Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is famed as the Second Dunhuang due to its colossal collection of numerous Tibetan Buddhist scriptures, murals and Thangkas. According to statistics, about 40,000 volumes of scriptures are housed there. The most precious is Burde Gyaimalung, which records Tibetan religion, history, philosophy, literature, agriculture and animal husbandry. It also houses 21 volumes of Buddhist scriptures written on Pattra leaves in Sanskrit. Each consists of one hundred to two hundred pages and four-color illustrations. They are the most precious sutras in the world.
The seat of the Sakya or Sakyapa school of Tibetan Buddhism, it was founded in 1073, by Konchok Gyelpo (1034–1102), originally a Nyingmapa monk of the powerful noble family of the Tsang and became the first Sakya Trizin. Its powerful abbots governed Tibet during the whole of the 13th century after the downfall of the kings until they were eclipsed by the rise of the new Gelukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. Its Mongolian architecture is quite different from that of temples in Lhasa and Yarlung.
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.
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.
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.
Holy Yamdrok Yumtso is the largest freshwater lake at the south foot of the Himalayas with an area of about 638 square kilometers, it has a length of 130 kilometers and a width of 70 kilometers. Its surface is about 4,441 meters above sea level. It is quite deep as the average depth is about 20-40 meters with the deepest point almost 60 meters below the surface. Yamdork-tso is shaped like a coiling scorpion. It doubles back on itself on the western side, effectively creating a large island within its reaches. For Tibetans, it is one of the three holy lakes (the others are Namtso and Manasarovar) and home to wrathful deities. Devout Tibetan pilgrims circumambulate the lake in around seven days.
Yamdrok Yumtso views from Kamba-la Pass (4700m)
The Yamdrok Yumtso Lake has some beautiful and vivid names like Coral Lake or Green Jade Lake. The name Coral Lake is derived from its irregular shape. This lake has many short streams winding into the nearby mountains and it appears much like the coral. The name Green Jade Lake implies its beautiful appearance for the pure clean water of the lake is as smooth as the surface of fine jade. Lying under the sunshine, the peaceful water seems like a bright mirror. The reflection of sunshine in different depths lends the lake gorgeous and mysterious colors. Overlooked from the nearby high mountain, one could see the Yamdrok Yumtso Lake, like a holy sapphire, set in the group of mountains. In the lake, are dotted several small islands. On the islands, fertile grasses and groups of wild birds betray peaceful but vigorous natural scenery. Embraced by the uninterrupted snow-capped mountains and lying under the clear blue sky, the Yamdrok Yumtso Lake appears very holy and evokes solemnity.
As one of the three holy lakes, the Yamdrok Yumtso Lake is said to be the female Guardian of Buddhism in Tibet. People here believe that it will bless and protect them. Every year, many devotional followers in Tibet or from other places would come here for pilgrimage. Some of them start on foot and give one prostration every three steps even from hundreds of kilometers away.
Kambala Pass reaches an altitude of 4794m and connects the Yarlung Tsangpo valley with the holy Yamdrok Yumtso area.
Yungbulakang Palace is an ancient structure in the Yarlung Valley, Nêdong County in the vicinity of Tsedang. According to legend, it was the first building in Tibet and the palace of the first Tibetan king, Nyatri Tsenpo.
According to the Bön religious tradition, Yumbulagang was erected in the second century BCE for the first Tibetan king, Nyatri Tsenpo, who descended from the sky. During the reign of the 28th king, Lha Thothori Nyantsen, in the fifth century CE, a golden Stupa, a jewel and a Sutra that no one could read fell from the sky onto the roof of the Yumbulagang; a voice from the sky announced that in five generations one shall come that understands its meaning!
Later, Yumbulagang became the summer palace of the 33rd Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo and his Chinese princess, Wencheng. After Songtsen Gampo had transferred the seat of his temporal and spiritual authority to Lhasa, Yumbulagang became a shrine and under the reign of the 5th Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, a monastery of the Gelugpa school.
The Yumbulagang was heavily damaged and reduced to a single storey during the Cultural revolution but was reconstructed in 1983.