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CRADLE OF TIBETAN CIVILIZATION
RIVERS, PEAKS, & UNSPOILED VALLEYS

 

   
   
Shannon Region  
The magnificent Yarlung Tsangpo River winds like a long silky snake from west to east through Tibet. In the middle it is joined by the Yarlong River and many other tributaries. The road from Lhasa crosses the Yarlung Tsangbo River and, after some distance, leads into Shannan area. This area is rich and fertile with vast natural resources. Shannon/Lhoka Prefecture (Tsedang) of Tibet Autonomous Region is situated south of Gangtis and Nyainchen Tanglha mountain ranges right along the middle and lower reaches of the Yarlung Tsanpo River. It covers an area of more than 80,000 square kilometers (30,888 square miles) with a population of more than 300,000 (2008) ,of which 98% are Tibetan folks. It goes all the way south to the Gangdise and Mt. Nyainqentanglha. There is an average altitude here of about 3700 meters or 12,000 feet. With more than 40 rivers and 80 lakes, including the famous Yamdrok Lake, there is an abundance of wild flowers, plants, minerals, and wildlife.

The Shannon/Lhokha area lies in the drainage area of Yarlong River and it was once called Yarlong. According to rare historic documents, archeological findings and legends, ancestors to Tibetans lived in this area four million years ago. A piece of land in Sare Village near Tsetang Town, is said to be the first farming field in Tibet.

When the Yarlong forefathers cultivated this land, primitive tribes emerged. The first king in Tibetan history, Niexie, chief of the Yarlong tribe, started ruling over the Yarlong valley in the beginning of second century B.C.. History reports that he founded the Fan Kingdom and its system then established the hereditary system of the throne.

It is recorded that the eighth king of the Fan Kingdom built a imposing tomb for himself and it appears the succeeding kings did the same. During the reign of Budegong, the ninth Fan king, people were gathered  to dig a canal to channel water for irrigation. Yaks and horses were used with primitive farm tools. During the reign of Yixiulie, the eleventh king, standard units for measuring the massive space of farmland was developed. During the period between the ninth king to fifteenth king six palaces dotted the landscape. Starting with the reign of Latuotuorinianzan, the 28th king, Buddhism was spread to Yarlong valley. Shrines were built inside the Yumbulagang Palace by the king to honor Buddhist scriptures and ritual objects brought to the valley by Indian monks. Yumbu Lhakang, the earliest palace in Tibet, is the burial ground for the kings of the Tubo Kingdom.

The 32nd king, Songtsen Gampo conquered many tribes, including the Subi Tribe and Yangtong tribe and then united them into the famous Tubo Kingdom. Eventually he transferred his capital north to Lhokha, the breadbasket of Tibet, and later to Lhasa.

Once the Yarlong area held the economic and political power of Tibet until a new capital was built at Lhasa. As the 'cradle of Tibetan culture', the Shannan region is known for firsts; the first farmland, the first king, the first palace, the first chapel, the first monastery and the first Tibetan opera.

   
LHAMA NHATSO LAKE YAMDROK YUMTSO LAKE
The word Lhaso Nhatso means heavenly 'Mother or Goddess Lake'. The magical Lhamo Nhatso lake is situated in the mountains of Gyacha in the county of Gyatsa, on the top at an altitude of 5100 m above sea level. When the holy lake freezes it looks like a smooth mirror when looking down at it from the snow-capped peak, 5,100 meters above the sea level. The holy lake is rumored to show pictures of future events and reveal  future fortune when pilgrims stare at it for some time.  It is so mysterious and predictive that a large number of people come to the sacred lake to search for their future fate. The reincarnations of successive Dalai Lama were always sought under the enlightenment of this holy lake.

Surrounded by mountains from all sides, the lake provides a magical view of the area, and offers an excellent trekking route for the adventure enthusiasts.

 

Yamdrok Yumtso, referred to as the "scorpian" lake because of it's complex shape, is connected to the Yarlung Tsangpo River. This salt lake of low salt density begins to freeze in mid-November. The ice can become as thick as 0.5 meter. About 1 million years ago, huge mud-rock flow blocked the river valley in the upper reaches of the Moqu River near Yangse  about 20 kilometers west of Baidi and the lake became a continental lake.

The lake is dense with underwater life, Tibetan fish, Plateau Carps and many others. For this reason there exists a fish hatchery and other fish related businesses in this area. Fish from this lake are sold all over the inland area, including Lhasa.

A likely result of having lots of fish, is the abundance of bird life. In fact, this is the largest area of bird population in Northern Tibet. Every winter flocks of birds can be seen flying south. This magnificent population includes large numbers of  swans, pigeons, yellow ducks, tweeters, cormorants and barhead goose.

It takes around thirty minutes to get down around the pass to Yamdrok Yumtso, but the views are truly magnificent. At times there is a lot of fog, but it changes by the minute, so wait around and you will see the extraordinary color and shape of this unique lake. Be aware that since the road was paved it is now fairly crowded with tourists during the summer months. There is a stop at the very top with stall and hawkers selling souvenirs. In the off season there are fewer sellers and tour operators, making this a very peaceful place. Make sure your guide gives you sufficient time to enjoy the grandeur of this view. Take a few minutes in addition to photo taking to sit and gaze upon this creation. It's truly breathtaking.

   
SAMYE MONASTERY YUMBULAGANG PALACE
Located in the quiet piedmont area of the Shannan Region, the Samye Monastery is the first temple to be built in Tibet and the first complete with the three Buddhist jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. With these unique features, this splendid temple has become an attraction for visitors from near and far. The legendary monkey cave is half way up the Gongpori Mountain, just behind the Tsetang (Zedang) town seat in Shannan. more This is the oldest Palace in Tibet, which has a history dating more than 2000 years back. It is said that the palace was built for the first Tibetan king, Nyatri Tsanpo. It was later used as a summer palace by the famous king Songtsen Gampo and Princess Wencheng. Nestling on the tip of the Jormo Zhaxi Ceri Mountain, this splendid creation will be visible to you from a long distance too. Inside the palace, there are rooms for monks to live and a bedroom for Dalai Lama. Yumbulagang Palace LhokhaThe highest point of the palace is a  watchtower from where you will get the most dramatic views of the vast stretches of lands around. You can also visit a perennial spring Geer Spring, which according to the legend cures all your diseases once you take a sip of the water or a dip in the water.
   
TRANDRUK MONASTERY
Situated on the southern side of Mt. Gangpo Ri, Trandruk Monastery is located 2 km south of Tradrug on the eastern bank of Yarlung River and is one of the earliest Buddhist monastery. This monastery is said to be built by King Songtsen Gampo in the same era of famous Jokhang temple. Its quite amazing that the monastery has a same look as that of a Jokhang Temple. The monastery was a lot smaller when it was built but 5th Dalai Lama took up extensive reconstruction work and also built the splendorous golden roof. The most captivating site here is of Pearl Thangka, embellished with numerous pearls, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, corals and a lot of gold, definitely a treat for your eyes. And it is a lot more ravishing than what it sounds.
CHANGZHU MONASTERY
Let's take a peek at the legend behind the Changzhu Monastery on the east bank of the Yalong River in the district of Shannan. It is said that the site of the Monastery was once an extremely deep lake. In the lake there was a five-headed dragon. After Srontsan Gampo garnered control of Tibet, he wanted to drain the lake and build a castle there. He invited two masters of magic to lure a big bird to attack the dragon. First the two masters imitated the sound of the bird and lured the dragon out. Afterward they imitated the sound of the dragon to lure the bird out. Confused, the dragon and the bird started to fight. The bird fianlly chopped off two of the dragon's heads with its wings. Seven days later, the lake disappeared. Some pearls were later buried as the cornerstone for the monastery.    
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