Tibet: A Night in Shigatse

Everest to Shenzhen

An overland journey from one side of China to the other

Part V: Shigatse

Shigatse, Tibet
With a population 9f 97,000 people, Shigatse is officially Tibet’s second largest City

The Torture Chair

The masseuse’s elbows and arms dug into my shoulders and back with an impatient furury that brought tears to my eyes. ‘did I do something to offend her?’ I wondered.

We lay face-down on reclining message chairs in the spa behind our hotel in Shigatse. Three straight days of driving coupled with an uncomfortable night on a hard bed at Everest Base Camp made my back, shoulders, and neck  stiff and sore.

Now, as the masseuse took out out some kind of personal vendetta on my muscles, I wondered how much of my back would be bruised in the morning. She moved so quickly from area to area that I could barely get in a gasp of pain before she moved on.  And so the torture continued.

When we finally stood up from the chairs, my shoulders ached with every movement.

The work of 200 Craftsmen

Gesar Hotel is one of the most beautiful hotels – possibly in China.  Though plain on the outside, the hotel’s interior is ornate and colorful.  The walls and ceilings of the lobby, hallways, and even the rooms are beautifully hand carved and painted.

Gesar Hotel in Shigatse, Tibet
Each room in the Gesar Hotel has ornate, Tibetan decor

Gesar Hotel opened in 2012 as one of Shigatse’s newest hotels.  Most  tourists spend two nights here – one on their way to Everest Base Camp, and one on the way back to Lhasa.

The only drawback to the lavish accommodation is its location. Situated on a quiet street in the city’s southeastern suburbs – There is little to see or do nearby. After our rough massage, my friend and I walked a couple of blocks down the street looking for dinner.  We found only one restaurant – a touristy Chinese affair targeting the Chinese Tourists. Accustomed to real Chinese food, we decided to forgo the Tibetan imitation and returned to the hotel restaurant for Yak Burgers.

 

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery

Shigatse, Tibet
Tashi Lhunpo Monastery housed more than 4000 monks before the Cultural Revolution.

The low buildings climbed the hillside to the gold-roofed chapels that hold the monastery’s most valuable treasures.  We climbed the cobbled steps slowly and made our way to a place where the road opened into a courtyard around three large, white stupas.

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, Tibet
The kora is a circular – meditative trail performed clockwise around places of religious significance

A couple of dozen worshippers circled the three stupas – prostrating themselves every few steps. Most worshipers will do the kora – a circular meditative trail around the entire monastery.  Those who are too old or sick for the demanding trail complete several circuits around these three stupas instead.

The Tasha Lhunpo Monastery is one of the most important religious institutions of the Gelugpa Sect of Tibetan Buddhism.  It is the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama and survived the cultural revolution largely because the of the 10th Panchen Lama’s relationship with Beijing and presence in Chinese controlled Territory during the most devastating years of the cultural revolution.

 

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse Tibet

Jamba Chyenmu

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, Tibet
Worshippers approaching the Kelsang Hall of the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Tibet

We continued up the stone pathway to the top of the monastery complex.  Here we found the hall of the Golden Buddha statue.

“26 meters high with a head of gold and body of copper,” our guide told us as we took in the scale of the art work.

The gentle song-like hum of chanting monks emerged from the dark corners of the room and mingled with the thick smell of the yak butter candles in my mind. It is difficult for me to imagine the kind of will, not to mention the kind of wealth that brings a creation like this into existence.

“It was made by 9th Panchen Lama in 1914 for the living things losing life in World War I.”

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse Tibet
Monks work on a balcony in the courtyard of the Kelsang Hall

We walked the stone streets of the monastery in a light rain while our guide told us stories the 10th Panchen Lama -championed of the Tibetan people.

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, Tibet“He brought education and establish the first Tibetan college,” our guide explained.  “He also rebuilt the cultural treasures that were destroyed.”

Beneath our feet the pavement glistened with rain water. The white walls of the monastery buildings stretched upwards into the grey sky.  The narrow appear deserted. Both tourists and worshippers fled into the monastery’s halls and out of the rain.

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, Tibet

…On the road again

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, Tibet
The market outside the walls of the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery specializes in yak butter, prayer wheels, and prayer beads

 

We took a few moments to explore the market outside of the monastery walls. A long row of tables filled with prayer wheels and beads lined the tiny street. After a bit of shopping, we climbed back into the van for the 5 hour drive along the new highway to Lhasa.

The road from Shigatse to Lhasa

 

A few informative sources…

Travel China Guide has some good general historic information both about Shigatse and about the Tashi Lhunpo monastery.

Facts and details has details about the position held by the Panchen Lama, as well as the legacy of the 10th and the controversies surrounding the 11th.

 

Read More: 

Everest to Shenzhen – An overland journey from one side of China to the other

Everest to Shenzhen Part 1: Welcome to Lhasa (Tibet)

Everest To Shenzhen Part 2: On the Road to Shigatse (Tibet)

Everest To Shenzhen Part 3: The Ancient Majesty of Gyantse (Tibet)

Everest to Shenzhen Part 4: The Road to Everest Chomolungma (Tibet)

Everest to Shenzhen Part 5: A night in Shigatse (Tibet) – You are here

 

 

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