Lhasa

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Lhasa

Lhasa or Lasa (lä-sŭ), city (1994 est. pop. 118,000), capital of Tibet Autonomous Region, SW China. It is on a tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo (Brahmaputra) at an altitude of c.11,800 ft (3,600 m). Lhasa is the chief Tibetan trade center, connected by road with the Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Sichuan, and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and with India, Kashmir, and Nepal; in 2006 it was connected by rail with Qinghai. Chemicals, motors, and wool and leather products are manufactured. Because of the remoteness of the city and the traditional hostility of the Tibetan clergy toward foreigners, Lhasa has long been called the Forbidden City. Prior to the Chinese occupation (1951) of Tibet, Lhasa was the center of Lamaism (see Tibetan Buddhism), and about half its population were Lamaist monks. Lhasa has little noteworthy architecture, but there are impressive religious edifices. On a nearby hill, backed by lofty mountains in the distance, stands the magnificent Potala, the former palace of the Dalai Lama, a gigantic block of buildings nine stories high, whitewashed save for the central portion, which is red, and surmounted by gilded roofs and towers. It has reception rooms, chapels, and quarters for thousands of monks. A smaller palace of the Dalai Lama is set in the beautifully wooded grounds of Jewel Park. Near the city is the Drepung monastery, one of the largest in the world. The holiest temple in Lhasa, unimpressive from the outside, is the Jokang, which contains a jeweled image of the young Buddha. Several of the religious edifices were damaged during China's imposition of direct political control over Tibet (1959–60), during which the Dalai Lama and other Tibetans fled to India. Increased protests and uprisings in the late 1980s against Chinese control of Tibet led China to impose (Mar., 1989) martial law on the region. A modern highway bridge, made of reinforced concrete (c.2,400 ft/730 m long), crosses the river at Lhasa. The city's name also appears as Lassa.

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