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Shannan--the birthplace of the Tibetans(2010-11-05)


Shannan--the birthplace of the Tibetans

Shannan Prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region is situated at the south of the Gangtise and Nyanchen Tangla ranges, along the middle and lower reaches of the Yarlung Tsangpo River. Shannan has been known as the birthplace of the Tibetan group. In today's program, we introduce you a little bit about the history and attractions in this area.


Shannan is a prefecture in the southeastern part of the Tibet Autonomous Region. "Shannan" means "south of the mountain". It contains the ancient region of Yarlong, the birthplace of Tibetan civilization.

Covering an area of 80,000 square kilometers, Shannan has a population of 320,000, of which 96 percent are Tibetans.

Legend has it that a sacred monkey was the ancestor of the earliest member of the Tibetan race who was born at Mount Gongpori in Tsedang. Tsedang is Tibet's third largest town and capital of the prefecture. Hence this mountain has become a sacred place for pilgrimage and for honoring ancestors.

With its long established history and culture, Shannan is an important place in Tibetan politics and history. It boasts a series of beautiful scenic attractions and historical sites.

Yumbu Lakhang is famed as the first Tibetan palace. It was originally built in the 2nd century BC for Nyatri Tsenpo, the first king of Tibet. The palace is located on the Zhaxi Ciri Mountain, five kilometers south of Naidong County.

Yumbu Lakhang is also the place where King Singtsan Gampo united the whole of Tibet and once lived with Princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty in central China. Later after the Potala Palace in Lhasa was constructed, Yumbu Lhakhang was turned into a monastery. Tourism Bureau chief of Shannan, Qiu Lin explains how the monastery got its name.

"In Tibetan, Yumbu means a doe. That's because the mountain where the palace is located looks like a doe. Lakang means holy palace."

Tsering Nyima, a Tibetan young man, says Yumbu Lhakhang is a must-see for travelers.

"Yumbu Lhakhang is the first palace in Tibet. During the years, the place has had many 'firsts'. For instance, the first piece of farmland, the first village, the first Buddhist Sutra, and the first king of Tibet."

Tsering Nyima says each year, the monastery is attracting tens of thousands of pilgrims from the western part of China to pay homage to Buddha.

With the lowest average altitude of Tibet, Shannan Prefecture has Lhasa to the north, Nyingchi to the east and Shigatse to the west. It holds the southwestern borderline of China, bordering India and Bhutan on the south.

It only takes about four hours by bus from the prefecture capital Tsedang to Lhasa, the regional capital of Tibet.

If you're not in such a hurry, you might get off the bus and spend two hours visiting another monastery, the Mindroling.

50 kilometers north of Tsedang, Mindroling Monastery is the largest and the most important monastery of the Nyingma Sect of Lamaism.

Built in the 17th century, it's surrounded by hills and has a very beautiful environment.

The studies of astronomy and calendar calculation are stressed in the temple. Monks at the temple are selected to teach at the Potala Palace in Lhasa and help compile the Tibetan calendar.

Unlike many other monasteries, the monks in Mindroling are allowed to get married and bear children. The succession of the abbot in Mindroling Monastery is not limited to the relationship of son and father. Son and son-in-law are treated equally in this regard. This is significant for the study of the development and decline of the Nyingma Sect.

Here's Abbot Jampel of the Monastery welcoming tourists to visit.

"Mindroling is the primary monastery of the Nyingma Sect of Lamaism. We welcome travelers and pilgrims from around the world to come and visit our monastery."

Shannan is actually a valley in the south of Tibet. This is usually the first stop for travelers to get used to the high altitude of Tibet.

With convenient transportation and telecommunication systems, Shannan is attracting more and more travelers. 97 kilometers from Tsedang, Shannan International Airport is one of the largest in Tibet.

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