Three World Heritage Sites are located in Tibet, which the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has acknowledged as an autonomous area of China. These can all be found in Lhasa, the country’s capital, along with one Tentative entry for the Yalong region, which is the birthplace of Tibetan culture. The three locations in Lhasa are all must-sees on any cultural tour to Tibet since they provide distinctive perspectives of the beauty, history, architecture, and culture of this breathtaking country. We can still see remnants of this strange land’s ancient culture today. It is because cultural legacy is being preserved. Tibet, the supposedly remote sacred region, has kept much of its cultural history because of its distinctive geographic setting, which has prevented modern society from eroding it.
The famous Potala Palace in Lhasa was initially constructed in the 7th century and then expanded into the opulent, vast palace complex that it is today. Between the 17th through the middle of the 20th century, it served as the residence of the Dalai Lamas, the rulers of Tibet and the founders of Tibetan Buddhism. The interior’s smaller chapels, meditation spaces, and living quarters are equally as lovely and fascinating as the exterior’s stunning views. According to UNESCO, the palace is home to 698 paintings, approximately 10,000 painted scrolls, a sizable collection of sutras, as well as various sculptures, carpets, canopies, curtains, porcelain, jade, fine gold, and silver artefacts. Here, there is a lot to see. On your second or third day in Tibet, if you’re traveling there after taking a flight from Kathmandu into Lhasa, you’ll probably visit the Potala Palace. This is due to the fact that visiting requires a lot of stair climbing, which can be exhausting for visitors who are new to the high-altitude city. In 1994, the Potala Palace was designated a World Heritage Site.
Although it is governed by the Gelug school of Buddhism, the most sacred temple in Tibet, Jokhang, is accessible to followers of all schools of Buddhism. Although the complex’s earliest components date from 652, renovations and additions have been made over the years. The exterior of the temple is decorated with early Buddhist symbols including deer and wheel designs, while the interior features a confusing network of chapels dedicated to many gods and bodhisattvas as well as a substantial collection of cultural relics. The most sacred item in Tibet is kept within Jokhang: a life-sized figure of Jowo Shakyamuni, the queen who ordered the building of the temple, that is covered in jewels. Its golden roof skillfully combines Tibetan, Nepalese, Chinese, and Indian themes.
Previously the summer residence of the Dalai Lama, Norbulingka was only accessible to a select group of Tibetan nobility. It is the biggest artificial garden in Tibet and is currently an open park. It has the most historic structures and the nicest vistas. The palaces in Norbulingka are adorned with exquisite murals that capture the beauties of Tibetan culture and house a sizable collection of cultural artifacts and classics. Additionally, it is one of the primary locations where Tibetans spend their free time, particularly during the annual Shoton festival, when they congregate with friends and family to watch Tibetan operas and partake in “Linka” (the Tibetan picnic), which is a picnic in a park.
These locations include the Changguo Ruins, which are the remains of a prehistoric Neolithic settlement, and the Yongbulakang Palace, which was the first palace ever erected in Tibet. It was constructed in the 2nd century BC on top of the Zhaxiciri Mountain. Early Tibetan characters, poems, operas, medicine, astronomy, and calendars all descended from these regions. The Yalong region on the Tibetan Plateau, which includes the valley of the middle stretch of the Yaluzangbu River, its branches, and a few lakes, is the birthplace of Tibetan culture. The surviving artifacts, relics, and archeological sites provide evidence of the Tibetan people’s early civilisation, including their early religion, culture, arts, and society. The Yalong region has a total size of 1350 km2. It is a region on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau with significant cultural and natural value. This area has a plateau temperate semi-arid monsoon climate, which is characterized by intense sunlight, intense radiation, and thin air. Yalong region, which is where Tibetan culture first emerged, witnessed the early development of agriculture and animal husbandry as well as the emergence of the distinctive Tibetan culture. Here, one can find well-kept historical manors, palaces, temples, and burial grounds. Here were also developed the earliest forms of Tibetan poetry, medicine, astronomy, and calendars. The significance of the region’s historic temples cannot be overstated as the birthplace of Tibetan Buddhism. From this point on, the Tibetan Buddhism steadily spread to Tibet and a sizable portion of western and northern China.
Intangible Cultural Heritage in Tibet
Tibetan opera, regong art, the Gesar epic legacy, and the practice of Tibetan medicinal bathing are among the intangible cultural heritages of Tibet that UNESCO has recognized.
- In 2009, Tibetan opera was added to the list of World Intangible Cultural Heritage. Tibetan opera is an integrated art form that incorporates Tibetan folk music, dances, and religious performances. It began as a Tibetan sacred art in the eighth century. Tibetan opera typically centers on Buddhist narratives.
- The Regong Art, which has its origins in the 13th century in the Tibetan region of Huangnan, Qinghai province, is based on Tibetan historical personalities, myths, legends, and epics. The most common terms used to describe it are Tibetan Thangka painting, mural painting, pile stitching, sculpture, and other painting.
- In western and northern China, King Gesar was revered as a hero by the communities of Tibetans, Mongolians, and Tu people. The King Gesar epic has primarily been transmitted orally through songs and storytellers. They are often done by switching between prose and poetry, however regional variations do exist. Thousands of years of Tibetan thangka painting, Tibetan opera, and other cultural forms have been influenced by the hundreds of Tibetan stories, folktales, and proverbs found in the epic.
- The Lum medical bathing of Sowa Rigpa is a form of Tibetan medicinal bathing that was inscribed as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2018. It is a perspective on life based on the five elements and a philosophy of health and illness that was influenced by the Bon religion and Tibetan Buddhism. All of the local Tibetan plants utilized in the Tibetan medicinal bath are grown more than 3500 meters above sea level. They go through a laborious decocting, brewing, and boiling process. The selection of herbs, the heating procedure, and the temperature and duration of the bath must all be tailored to the specific disease at hand.