Architectural Pilgrimages: Tibet


The Tibetan Plateau has been inhabited by humans for approximately 21,000 years. The Tibetan empire was at its highest power at 650 CE after the reign of Songtsan Gampo. It was after his reign that Buddhism became the dominant religion and it was embedded by the subsequent Tibetan Kings. The history is rich and extensive like many other ancient cultures. Over the years various majestic monasteries were constructed however during the Great Leap Forward many of them were destroyed. Despite the onslaught many great works of art remain and Tibet is well worth visiting for its architecture alone.Mustang is rich in Buddhist culture, similar to the area of Tibet . Thus, it is an alternate way to experience the Tibetan culture and landscape. Lo Manthang, the capital of the former Kingdom of Lo,  is only 20 kilometres  by unpaved road from the Tibetan border.

A typical remote Tibetan house.

The architecture of Tibet is mainly influenced from China and India, its closest neighbours. The buildings were constructed as a reflection of the Buddhist approach. The buildings are built on elevated, south facing sunny areas. Due to little or no fuel for lighting and heating most roofs were built flat to conserve heat. The buildings had a lot of windows so that more light was able to get in. Tibet is also a common place for earthquakes so to add better protection the buildings were designed with an inwards 10 degree slope.

Around Jakar, Jambay Lhakhang

Jambay Lhakhang one of the oldest temples in Tibet.

The Potala Palace is the most prominent example of architecture in Tibet. It is 117 metres tall and 360 metres wide. The palace was originally the home of the Dalai Lama. It has over one thousand rooms and is thirteen floors high. There are over 10,000 shrines and an extensive range of ancient Buddhist scriptures. The Potala palace is not Tibet’s most sacred temple the honour of which goes to the Jokhang which is located at the centre of Lhasa. The layout of the temple is intriguing due to its large mandala which is a circular diagram of the cosmos that Buddhists use for visualisation rituals.2616466400_c319f846e4_o