Shigatse is located 273 km west of Lhasa on an alluvial plateau, a result of the junction of the Yarlung Tsangpo and Nianchu rivers at 3800 metres above sea-level. With a population of 120,000 inhabitants, it was the capital of Tibet in the 17th century and is currently the second largest city in the region.Among its most important monuments is the Tashilhunpo Monastery. Built in 1447 at the foot of the Nyima mountain, it was the seat of the Panchen Lamas until the Chinese occupation. It is the largest and oldest of the Sect of the Yellow Caps, with 3000 buildings, 51 subordinate monasteries and up to 5000 monks in its most prosperous period. Today, it is a prestigious school of Tantric Buddhism.Within its red and white walls and under its golden roofs, is the Great Hall of Sutras, where the monks read the Buddhist sermons and teachings, the Room of the Stupas with chortens of noble metals and precious stones that contain the remains of the 5th to the 10th Panchen Lama; The Council Room that houses the impressive throne of the Panchen Lama; and the Kelsang Temple. The Maitreya Chapel houses an impressive 26 metre high golden image of the Buddha of the Future, the largest of the world, sat in the lotus position. It was built out of 280 kg of gold and 1400 precious stones.The mural paintings, sutras and thangkhas of the Ming and Qing are also important cultural relics treasured by the monastery.The sacred route of the kora can be completed within an hour, following the surrounding outer wall.The Shigatse Dzong is the little brother of the Potala Palace, erected in the image and likeness of the latter but on a smaller scale for the Dalai Lama. It has stood on a small hill since 1621, dominating the city's skyline. It was destroyed in 1961 after the Tibetan uprising and renewed in 2007, but is not open to the public.The Road of the Friendship also crosses this beautiful town. Travelling to Shigatse means experiencing a more modern town, where parts of the town are in stark contrast to the older cobblestone streets and mysterious constructions. Shigaste is famous as being the gateway to Everest, so it is often frequented by brave climbers and explorers.
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