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(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 BuddhismTibetan Buddhism,
form of Buddhism prevailing in the Tibet region of China, Bhutan, the state of Sikkim in India, Mongolia, and parts of Siberia and SW China. It has sometimes been called Lamaism, from the name of the Tibetan monks, the lamas [superior ones].
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), 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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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


, Lassa
a city in SW China, capital of Tibet AR, at an altitude of 3606 m (11 830 ft.): for centuries the sacred city of Lamaism and residence of the Dalai Lamas from the 17th century until 1950; known as the Forbidden City because it was closed to Westerners until the beginning of the 20th century; annexed by China in 1951. The Dalai Lama fled after an unsuccessful revolt against Chinese rule in 1959. Pop.: 131 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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