Lhasa is also known as "the city of sunlight". As the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in China, Lhasa is the largest city in Tibet and is located in southeastern Tibet Autonomous Region, north bank on the Lhasa River (the tributary of the Brahmaputra). It is the second most populous city on the Tibetan Plateau (after Xining) and at an altitude of 3,490 metres, covering a total area of ??29,518 square kilometers.
Lhasa is an ancient city with a history of 1,300 years and has long been the political, economic, cultural and religious center in Tibet region. In 1960, it was officially approved as a prefecture-level city by the State Council. In 1982, it was listed as one of 24 national historical and cultural city.
The Lhasa city contains many culturally significant Tibetan Buddhist sites such as the Potala Palace, Jokhang temple and Norbulingka palaces, many of which are located in Chengguan District.
Lhasa is quite rich in unique cultural and spiritual resources, especially its Buddhism culture. Today, numerous cultural relics and historic sites covered with thick religious color remain in Lhasa. The attractions of Lhasa do not only lie in its cultural and historic sites, but also in its breathtaking natural scenery.
Lhasa Government and Politics
Administratively speaking, Lhasa is a prefecture-level city and consists of one district and seven counties. Chengguan District is the main urban area of Lhasa. The mayor and vice-mayor of Lhasa are Doje Cezhug and Jigme Namgyal, respectively.
Lhasa literally means "place of the gods". Ancient Tibetan documents and inscriptions demonstrate that the place was called Rasa, which either meant "goats' place", or, as a contraction of rawe sa, a "place surrounded by a wall,"or 'enclosure', suggesting that the site was originally a hunting preserve within the royal residence on Marpori Hill. Lhasa is first recorded as the name, referring to the area's temple of Jowo, in a treaty drawn up between China and Tibet in 822 C.E.
Before the mid-seventh century when Lhasa, later a central town of Tibetan region, was yet to come into being, the area called Wotang was a marshy land of wildness, frequented by antelopes. On one bright summer day, Songtsan Gampo, leader of the Tubo tribe that had risen to power in the Yarlung River Valley, was struck by the perilous position of an area flanked by two steep mountains, while bathing in the Lhasa River, and decided that this was to be the home of his kingdom.
This ambitious Tibetan king moved the center of his rule to Wotang and ordered the construction of his residence on the hilltop of Potala. In 641 A.D., Songtsan Gampo who by this time had conquered the whole Tibetan region wedded Princess Wencheng of the Imperial Tang Court. When the princess arrived, she became convinced that Lake Wotang was a devil's heart to be overpowered by the construction of a grand temple after filling up the lake with earth.
The princess further suggested that the earth be carried by white goats. This imposing grand temple became a symbol of the kingdom. The temple, later known as Jokhang, was initially named Lhasa, "the Sacred Land" in Tibetan. Over the centuries, Lhasa became a political and religious center of Tibet.