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a city in China and the administrative, economic, and cultural center of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. It is situated in the valley of the Kyi Chu River, a tributary of the Brahmaputra, in the Tibetan Highlands at an elevation of 3,650 m. Population, 50,000 (1958). Lhasa has long been a trade, handicraft, and transport center.
Since the 1950’s food-processing, woodworking, tanning, and metalworking industries have been established, as well as mechanical repair shops and enterprises producing serums and vaccines. Electricity is generated by a steam power plant operated on coal from a small local mine. Lhasa has a geophysical observatory, a weather station, and an experimental farm. The surrounding areas constitute the main agricultural region of the Tibetan Highlands.
The city is believed to have been founded by Song-tsen Gampo (6177-649), the creator of the first Tibetan state, who transferred his capital to Lhasa from the valley of the Yarlung River. However, a fortified settlement probably had previously existed at the site, as reflected in the city’s original name, Rasa (a walled place). In the tenth century feudal fragmentation caused the city’s decline. With the emergence of the Gelugpa sect (Yellow Hats) in the 15th to 17th centuries and the establishment of the authority of the Dalai Lamas, it became the secular and spiritual center of Tibet.
The city owes its concentric layout to the circular roads traversed by pilgrims. The first road leads to the Jokang monastery (641-650), the second (Palkhor) encircles the commercial center surrounding the monastery, and the third (Lingkor) rings the Old City. The narrow, crooked radial streets are lined with flat-roofed adobe houses of one or two stories. The fortress palace of Potala (begun in the seventh century and reconstructed in the 16th and 17th centuries) dominates the northwestern part of the city. Near Lhasa are three monasteries: Sera (15th and 16th centuries) to the northeast, Ganden to the east, and Drepung to the west.
Tucci, G. A Lhasa e oltre, 2nd ed. Rome, 1952.