Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tibetan cities: Shigatse

Shigatse, also named Xigatse, is the second largest city in Tibet, inferior to Lhasa. It is the administrative centre of a vast area that includes most of west-central Tibet.

Shigatse, literally meaning 'the fertile land', sits in the plain at the confluence of the Yarlong Tsangpo and Nyangchu Rivers, where Tibet's most fertile land is to be found. The latter flows from southeast to northwest, watering a broad, beautiful valley 100 kilometres long, with Gyantse at one end and Shigatse at the other. It is one of Tibet's richest farming areas. Barley, rape seed, wheat, beans and many varieties of vegetables colour the valley with all shades of green in summer, and with bright yellow patches in June and July, when the rape flower is in bloom.

The city is also the cultural, economic and political center of Tibet. Its long history gives this city a strong cultural heritage, especially in respect of Buddhism. The approximately 600 year-old majestic Tashilhunpo Monastery is a must see in Shigatse, which has a magnificent architectural style with a golden roof and resplendent buildings. The monastery is the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama, one of the spiritual leaders in Tibet, also it’s one of Tibet's four greatest monasteries. Besides, dozens of monasteries belonging to different sects enhance the atmosphere of Buddhism. Various grand festivals like Buddha Unveiling Festival in the monasteries each year give people a chance to admire the huge portraits of three Buddhas.

In addition, as one of the world's highest cities, Shigatse has beautiful high plateau scenery. It is also a hot spot for Chinese tourism. Shigatse is of great importance for its location in this area. It is 300 kilometers (about 186 miles) away from the world's highest peak Mt. Everest, 150 kilometers (about 93 miles) away from the Sakya Monastery and also on the only path to Tibet's holy lakes. Thus Shigatse is quite an important base for people heading for those places.

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