Gyantse Travel Guide, Tibet
Gyantse, at an altitude of 3950, 260km southwest of Lhasa and 98km southeast of Shigatse, is the third largest town in Tibet, most famous for its stunning KumBum, a place of great religious and artistic reverence and importance.
For most visitors to the Tibet Autonomous Region, the name Gyantse does not bring a familiar ring as compared with larger cities like Lhasa, Nyingchi, Yadong and Xigaze.But the minor city is a firmly written chapter in Tibet's modern history.
Gyantse is usually called the "Heroic City" as a stronghold in the fight against British aggression at the end of 20th century. Local people and visitors have paid homage to the historic sites such as Mount Dzongri, where the heroic Tibetan soldiers shed their blood and contributed their lives in the war.
The formal establishment of the ancient town dates back about 600 to 700 years. Gyantse was an important wool trading post between Tibet and India in medieval times.
The main site in Gyantse is the Kumbum and the Palkhor Chode monastery. Summer is a particularly lively time to visit here when a horse racing and archery festival takes place in June and July.
No direct bus from Lhasa to Gyantse, the easiest way is via Shigatse,which gives you the chance to get a travel permit first. Minibuses leave every 30 minutes outside the bus station in Middle Liberty Road in Shigatse, Y20 / 77km /2hrs.
From Gyantse, you can go eastward to Lhasa or Shannan, northward to Shigatse(minibuses to Shigatse available at the main crossing), westward to Tingri via Gangba and Tingjie, southward to Yatung, a frontier port, via the beautiful Yadung Gully across the Himalayas.
- Wuste Hotel - located on Yingxiong Nanlu, Tel.(0892) 8172909. A popular palce set aound a courtyard, Y40/dorm, a bit rough but with clean shower facility. While the restaurant inside is decent, 20% off is possible.
- Gyantse Inn - Y20/bed, 8# Yingxiong Nanlu, Tel.(0892) 8172222. The little Inn serves barley wine, steam bread and dishes.Bicycle available at the retail shop on the right side in front of the inn, Y2/hr
- The Palkhor Chode Monastery - also named Palcho Monastery, a huge temple with a unique history and a wealth of Buddhist art. The Monastery was founded in 1418. Originally the compound housed approximately 15 different monasteries, made up of three different sects in a rare instance of tolerance amongst the Tibetan orders of Buddhism. Today, however, it is much emptier and maintained by monks of the Gelugpa sect alone.
The Palkhor Chode Monastery occupies an important place in Tibetan Buddhism history as different Buddism sects, like Gelugpa, Sakyapa, were compatible in the monastery.
- The Kumbum - one of Tibet's most famous and impressive sites.The Temple was the centerpiece of the Palkhor Chode Monastery, built in 1440 by Rabten Kunsangm, a Gyantse Prince and named "Kumbum" or the "Hall of 100 thousand images".
This is a spectacularly well preserved chorten, crowned with a golden dome and still containing literally thousands of wonderful murals. The interior too is largely intact and spread out over six levels. There are more than 70 chapels on the first four levels alone.
Scholars arrive with bags of reference books and flashlights to see some of the oldest preserved murals in Tibet. Rare in most Tibetan Monasteries, the monks in the Kumbum will allow unlimited picture taking of the marvelous Buddha statues for Y10. If you don't pay, they will kindly request that you leave your camera with them while visiting.
The real highlight are the views from the 6th level where you emerge next to the chorten's eyes. The surrounding countryside and the city below look very impressive from up here.
Admission Fee: Y45 ( the 2 sites are together )
Get there: The Palkhor Chode and the Kumbum sit on the northern hill overlooking the town of Gyantse's one intersection,just at walk distance from Gyantse town.
- Gyantse Fort - The Gyantse Dzong is Gyantse's town fort sitting upon a flat hill just north of the town . The fort building rests strong and magnificent on the hill, but from various angles seems to be perched rather precariously over sharp cliffs. Wherever you are in Gyantse, the Dzong can be seen.
The fort is partly ruined, but there are still some things to see beyond the view. There is an intriguing Anti-British Imperialists Museum here displaying a version of the facts of the 1904 British invasion of Tibet and a major battle that took place. The British used massive firepower to defeat a much less powerful Tibetan army here and a part of the fort was blown up in the firefight.
The half hour climb up to the fort is well worth the effort and the spot offers fantastic vistas of the monastery compound to the north, the town below, and the surrounding valley.
Admission Fee: Y20
Get there: take the path up to the top of the Dzong hill, then follow the alley that runs from the left of the eastbound road from the roundabout. Or, just walk along the slope from the Palkhor Monastery to the Fort.