"The medieval push and shove of crowds, the street performers, the stalls hawking everything from prayer flags to jewel-encrusted yak skulls, and the devout tapping their foreheads to the ground at every step is an exotic brew that few newcomers can resist."
– Lonely Planet Tibet
Surrounded by colossal mountain ranges in southwestern China, the city of Lhasa ("Place of the Gods") is the religious and political capital of the Tibetan world. Every Tibetan Buddhist aims to visit Lhasa at least once in his or her lifetime. Lhasa rose to prominence following the founding of three large Gelugpa monasteries by Tsong-kha-pa and his disciples in the 15th century. Two centuries later, the Fifth Dalai Lama, Lobsang Gyatso (1617–1682) moved the center of his administration to Lhasa and began construction on the Potala Palace. After this, Lhasa gained its unquestioned status as the political capital of Tibet. Today, although most of the temples and monasteries of Lhasa remain active and visited by throngs of Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims, Lhasa is more Chinese than Tibetan. The effects of the martial law declared in March 1989 are still felt here, and waves of Han migration from poor neighboring provinces since the 1980s have made Tibetans a minority in their own capital. Over 1 million visitors come to Tibet each year. Lhasa tourists and pilgrims alike spend most of their time in the Tibetan Quarter, also known as the Barkhor District, which centers on the sacred Jokhang Temple.
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Sacred Sites and Religious Attractions in Lhasa
Drepung MonasteryFounded in 1416, this monastery on the outskirts of Lhasa was once Tibet's largest and most influential, with over 10,000 monks. It remains active today.
Jokhang TempleThis historic temple in Lhasa is the holiest site in Tibetan Buddhism. It houses a venerated Buddha statue and has been a major pilgrimage destination for centuries.
Potala PalaceThis castle-monastery was long the primary residence of the Dalai Lama, who now lives in exile in India. Today it is a state museum and World Heritage Site.