Shannan Prefecture of is located at the lower reaches of the Yarlung Tsangpo River south of the Kangdese and Nyenchen Tanglha (Nyainqentanglha) Mountains on the Tibetan Plateau. It is bordered by Lhasa Prefecture to the north, Shigatse to the west, Nyingchi to the east, and India and Bhutan to the south. With an area of 73,500 square kilometers, Shannan occupies one-fifteenth of the total area of Tibet. It strategic border with India and Bhutan extends more than 600 kilometers. When the Dalai Lama fled Tibet he did so through the Shannan region. [Source:,, Ministry of Culture, P.R.China]

Shannan includes 12 counties, including four — Cona, Lhongzi, Nanggarze, and Lhoza ---- which are in border areas. It has a population of more than 350,000 people. There are 144 township-level towns, five neighborhood committees, and 719 village committees. Of the 144 townships, there are 71 agricultural townships, 18 involved in animal husbandry, and 57 that combine these two sectors.

Shannan's topography is typical of the southern Tibetan valley area, with a terrain gradually declining from west to east and at an average elevation of about 3,700 meters. The Yarlung Tsangpo River, the mother river of Tibetan people, runs 424 kilometers from west to east through the seven counties of Nanggarze, Gonggar, Chahang, Nedong, Sangri, Qusum, and Gyacha.

In addition, Shannan has 41 rivers that run down high mountains and deep valleys all year round, with a river area of 38,000 square kilometers. There are 88 lakes in the prefecture, including Yamdrok, Namco, Chigu, and Purmo Yumco, which are well known and, like green gemstones, are inlaid in the mountains of Shannan.

Tuiwa is the second highest village by elevation in the world. It is 5,070 meters (16,663 feet above sea level) The highest village in the world, at 5,130 meters (16,830 feet) is La Rinconada in Peru. Tuiwa in located in Daglung Town, Nagarzê County on the northeast shore of Lake Puma Yumco.[2]

Tradruk Monastery

Tradruk Monastery (east bank of the Yalong River in Shannan, 100 kilometers southeast of Lhasa) was built during the reign of Tubo King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century and is Tibet's oldest Buddhist worship hall.It is said that Princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) once lived there when she first entered Tibet. And also, there was once a famous hanging bell made under the supervision of Han monk Master Renqing in the late 8th century, containing 12 sentences of Tibetan epigraphs that were praised by the Tibetan people at that time. [Source:,, Ministry of Culture, P.R.China]

The monastery used to be called Changzhu Monastery In Tibetan, "Chang" means a big roc bird and "Zhu" means dragon. According to a Tibetan legend, the site of the monastery was once occupied by an extremely deep lake. In the lake there is a five-head dragon. After Songtsen Gampo got control of Tibet, he wanted to drain the lake and build a castle there. So he invited two Buddhist masters to lure a big roc bird to attack the dragon. The two masters first imitated the sound of the bird and lured the dragon out; then they imitated the sound of the dragon to lure the bird out. Next, the dragon and the bird began to fight. The bird at last chopped off two of the dragon's heads with its wings. Seven days later, the lake disappeared. That is how the monastery got its name.

Coqen Hall, the main building, enshrines the statues of Songtsen Gampo, Sakyamuni, and Guanyin Bodhisattva, and a winding corridor with many scriptures carved on the wall. The hall on the second floor of the Coqen Hall enshrines the statue of Indian Master Padmasambhava. The Coqen Hall still boasts a lot of statues and mural paintings in the hall. The most attractive is the Pearl-made Tangkha (a kind of embroidery), made of 29,026 pearls, 1 diamond, 1 ruby, 1 sapphire, and 15 grams of gold. It is a miracle to see it have passed down from generation to generation without being damaged or lost during political struggles and wars. Tradruk Monastery has experienced much damage and been repaired many times. During the period of the 5th Dalai, it was repaired with the addition of a golden top. During the reign of the 13th Dalai Lama, it was repaired, enlarged, and renovated again.


Tsetang (200 kilometers southeast of Lhasa) is Tibet's third largest city. Situated on the Yarlung River in the Yarlung Valley, it is the mythical birthplace of the Tibetan people. According to legend a monkey mediating in a cave was seduced by a female demon who refused to wed another monster. She married the monkey and produced six children who grew up to form the six major tribes of Tibet.

Among the sights in Tsetang (also spelled Tsedang, Zedang and Zetang) are monkey caves with stamped characters and the First Field and the First House of the Tibetans. The First Field, north of Tsetang , is where Tibetans have traditionally believed that god bestowed a field for the first cultivated crops. The First House, in Nedong County near Tsetang, was built for the first ruler of Tubo Kingdom. It is a good place to sample Tibetan butter tea and barley wine.

Tsetang is home to around 100,000 people. It is large enough to have a significantly large Chinese population, many of them vendors and construction workers, and its own red light district. Nearby the People's Liberation Army has a large base, guarded by soldiers with bayoneted rifles and fronted by a sign that reads “Maintain National Unity, Safe Guard Territorial Integrity." Web Site: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet and Lonely Planet

Road between Gyangze and Tsetang (beyond Lhasa airport) is spectacular. The route passes through three passes — Gonsidi La, Dunga La, and Shuge La — which range in height from 14,000 feet to nearly 18,000 feet, making this the second highest road in the world. The road also goes near Lake Yamdrok, one of the largest lakes in China. A steep narrow road from Tsetang leads to the ruined palace of Yambu Lhang which, according to legend, was built by the first Tibetan king, Nyatri Tsanpo, and is reputedly the oldest structure in Tibet.

Yarlung River Scenic Area

Yarlung River Scenic Area (accessible from Tsetang, 200 kilometers southeast of Lhasa) covers 920 square kilometers and is the only national key scenic area in Tibet. Located in the river valley at the middle reaches of theYarlung Tsangpo River, this area is regarded as the cradle of Tibetan nationality and features mountains, glaciers, rural scenery, river valleys, alpine plants as well as sacred lakes, historic attractions and folk traditions.

Yarlung River Scenic Area contains 58 scenic spots in 10 large scenic areas from east to west With scenic spots scattered among a 1,580 square kilometer, the scenic area has an average elevation between 3,450 and 3,600 meters. Yagla Xambo Mountain is 6,636 meters (21,771 feet) high. The terrain is high in the south and west and low in the north and east. The turbulent waters of the Yarlung Tsangpo River run through tall mountains and deep valleys. It is spectacular and magnificent and a rarely visited spot. Along both banks the terrain is flat, the climate is pleasant, the soil is fertile and villages are closely linked, each displaying typical south Tibetan rural scenes.

Yarlung River Scenic Area embraces, Yumbu Lhakang, the oldest palace in Tibet, and serves as a burial ground for the kings of the Tubo Kingdom between the 7th and 9th centuries. It also is the home of Tradruk Monastery, the oldest Buddhist temple in Tibet, built in the 7th century. The Samye Monastery, the earliest of its kind in Tibet, sits on the northern bank of the Yarlung Tsangbo River. The legendary monkey cave is half way up the Gongpori Mountain, just behind Tsetang. Among the scenic places are Yamdrok Lake, Gyatsa Lake and Drekhu pasturelands.

Yumbu Lakhang: Tibet’s First Palace and Building

Yumbu Lakhang (192 kilometers southeast of Lhasa, nine kilometers southwest of Tsetang, Lhoka prefecture) is said to be the first palace and the first building in Tibet. Perched atop a small hilltop on the eastern bank of Yarlong River and facing west, it is an ancient structure in the Yarlung Valley. According to legend, it was the palace of the first Tibetan king, Nyatri Tsenpo, who is believed to have descended from the Heaven. . Yumbu Lakhang (Yungbulakang, Yumbu Lakhang) is said to have been built in the 2nd century B.C. by King Nyatri Tsenpo. "Yumbu" means female deer, describing the resemblance of the mountain around the site, and "Lakhang" means holy palace. Yumbu Lakhang means "the palace on back legs of a doe" in the Tibetan language. [Source:,, Ministry of Culture, P.R.China]

Legend says that in the 5th century, a Buddhist sutra fell from the sky onto the roof of Yambu Lakhang. Nobody could read the book. However, a sage predicted it would be interpreted between 7th century to 8th, so the sutra was safeguarded in the palace. Youmpu Lhakang became famous after Songtsan Gambo and Princess Wencheng spent their summer holidays here. It became the summer palace of Songtsen Gampo and Princess Wencheng. These legends really fascinate a lot of people from home and abroad.

Yumpu Lakhang became famous after Songtsan Gambo and Princess Wencheng spent their summer holidays there, making it their summer palace. After Songtsen Gampo transferred his capital to Lhasa in the 7th century, Yumbu Lakhang became a chapel and was converted into a Gulugpa monastery during the reign of the 5th Dalai Lama (17th century).

Yumbu Lakhang consists of three parts: a tower, some chapels, and some monk living quarters. Tibetan kings and their ministers are enshrined in part of the main chapel. Upstairs is a small chanting hall, which houses Sakyamuni and Chenrezi. A mural gallery above tells of Nyatri Tsenpo's arrival from the sky and stories about him as well as Tibetan history.

Samye Monastery: Tibet's First Buddhist Monastery

Samye Monastery (in Dranang, 30 kilometers west of Tsetang) is the oldest monastery in Tibet. Situated in the Yarlung Valley, it is said to have been built where the Tantric yogi Padmasambhava built an enormous mandala to exorcize evil forces from the area. At the center of the main temple is a large golden Buddha with four corners.

Although the Samye trove has an extensive collection of artifacts, its murals are prestigious throughout Tibet. Samye has many valuable murals. They include murals telling of Padmasambhava's life (ground and second floors of Utse), the history of Samye (south cloister on the second floor of Utse) and other murals reflecting the local folklore. The Samye murals are actually an encyclopedia of Tibetan culture and religion.

Samye means “Unimaginable” in Tibetan. It was said that when King Tritsong Detsen asked for suggestions about the construction of the monastery, Padmasambhava, exerting his magical powers, showed the king an image of a monastery in his palm. That is the origin of the name. Padmasambhava chose the construction site while the design was done by Santarakshita. After the construction was completed, Buddhism became the official religion in Tibet. Learned monks from inland China and India were invited to Tibet to translate Buddhist sutras into Tibetan. Trisong Detsen selected seven nobles to be the first monks in Tibet. Thus, Samye became the first formal monastery to establish triratna (refer to the Buddha), the Dharma and the Sangha, or Buddhist priesthood. [Source:,, Ministry of Culture, P.R.China]

Lake Yamdrok

Lake Yamdrok (60 kilometers southwest of Lhasa and 150 kilometers east of Shiagtse) snakes in between mountain slopes and has delightful turquoise color, freezing only a few weeks in the year (usually in February). There are fish in the lake but nobody fishes there due to the Tibetan custom of water burials.

Yamdrok Lake is one of the largest lakes in Tibet and one of the three scared lakes in Tibet along with Manasarovar Lake and Namtso. The largest inland lake near the northern part of the Himalayas, it covers 638 square kilometers. Snow-capped mountains surround the lake, which is fed by many small streams. Within the lake are small green islands that act as resting grounds for groups of wild birds. Buddhist followers believe the water can wash away "five malignancies of the human soul (greed, anger, craziness, sloth and jealousy)" and can remove uncleanliness from human skin. As a result, the holy lake is crowded with people who come to take a bath there every year. These people also carry water from the holy lake on their long journeys back home, and share it with their relatives and friends. [Source:,, Ministry of Culture, P.R.China]

Four bathing gates lead to the holy lake: the Gate of Lotus Baths in the east, the Gate of Sweat Baths in the south, the Gate of Filth-Removing Baths in the west, and the Gate of Belief Baths in the north. The holy lake also has four headwaters: Maquanhe River in the east, Shiquanhe River in the north, Xiangquanhe River in the west, and Kongquehe River in the south. The four rivers are named after the four supernatural animals in paradise -- the horse, lion, elephant and peacock. They are are also the origins of four well-known rivers in South Asia: the Ganges, Indus River, Sutlei River andYarlung Tsangpo River. Mapam Yumco Lake's reputation as mother of the rivers in the world was probably established due to this.

The water of the lake is regarded as dew bestowed from heaven. Drinking it or dipping oneself in it helps build up healthy qualities, removes annoyance and prolongs life. Tibetans deem all fish or feathers they take from the lake or lakeside as gifts from the Dragon King. This is why people who come to take a ritual walk around the holy mountain Kangrinboqe also walk around the lake. Many tend to prostrate themselves and then crawl to complete a circuit in a week. Admission: Yamdrok Lake: 40 yuan; Best time to visit: May to September

Motuo County

Motuo County (South of Nyingchi near Arunachal Pradesh) is said to be the last county in China without a road leading to it. To reach it you have to travel through snow-capped parts of the Himalayas and cross a 200-meter-log suspension bridge.

Motuo ( Mêdog, Metok) County is a county as well as a traditional region of the prefecture-level city of Nyingchi. It further stretches across McMahon Line into neighboring Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh; today one-third of historical Pemako – Lower Pemako – lies in Upper Siang district, which is claimed by the People’s Republic of China.

Motuo means "hidden lotus" in Tibetan. Until 2011 year it was the only county in China with no highway, and is a paradise for travelers and adventurers. Covering an area of 34,000 square kilometers, the mysterious Motuo County is mainly inhabited by the Menba and Luoba ethnic groups, whose population is about 10,000 people. A nine-day trek starts from Paixiang, and passes through Lage, Aniqiao, Badengze and Damu. Travelers should prepare well for the altitude, climate and tough walking conditions. Best time to visit: July to October

Brahmaputra River

Brahmaputra River is one of the world's great rivers and as far as anyone knows no one has ever traveled its entire length. Extending for 3,080 kilometers (1,913 miles) through some of the world's most remote and inhospitable terrain, it begins in the Himalayas in western Tibet as a glacier-fed stream and changes its name and twists and turns through China and India before emptying into Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh. The basin size of the Brahmaputra is 712,035 square kilometers (274,918 square miles). [Source: Jere Van Dyk, National Geographic, November 1988]

By some reckoning the Brahmaputra is the highest river in the world. Brahmaputra means "son of Brahma." Brahma is one of the most prominent Hindu gods. In Hindu cosmology the Brahmaputra is the only male river. The river is regarded as sacred by Buddhists in Tibet but not among the Muslims in Bangladesh.

The Brahmaputra is at its lowest in February, when water in the Himalayas is locked up in snow and ice. The river is at its highest in June when it is swollen from snow melt and early monsoons rains and September after the monsoons. In the dry season there is enough water to irrigate crops. New islands are constantly being creating and channels are consisting changing and on the move.

The Brahmaputra often floods in India, swamping fields and washing away villages. Sediment from floods helps fertilize the soil. Villages have to be move as the water cuts away at river banks. Freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins, known locally as su, swim up the Brahmaputra all the way to Assam in India.

Route of the Brahmaputra (Yarlung Tsanpo) in Tibet

The source of the mighty Brahmaputra is in Tibet 100 kilometers south of sacred Mt. Kailas in the Chemayungdung range in the Himalayas and near the sacred Lake Mansarovar . The river here is known to Tibetans as the Tsangpo (Zangpo or Zangbo), which simply means "river." It is often called Yarlung Tsangpo. Yarlung is a region of Tibet. [Source: Jere Van Dyk, National Geographic, November 1988]

The Tsangpo is the largest river in southern Tibet. It flows at a height of more than two miles (3500 meters) for 1125 kilometers (700 miles) to the east almost the entire length of the Chinese-Tibetan border with Nepal and eastern India. It wasn't until early in the 20th century that geographers were certain that the Tsangpo and the Brahmaputra were the same river. A British surveyor wrote in 1788, "This river must have a very long course before its enters the Bengal Provinces, since for 40 miles it is twice as big as the Thames...[There is] the strongest presumptive proof possible of the Sanpoo and Burrampooter being one and the same river."

The Tsangpo goes through several name changes. It starts out as the Maquan Tsangpo and becomes the Yarlung Tsangpo. The river that flows through Lhasa is a tributary of the Yarlung Zanpo. Most Tibetans live along the Yarlung Tsangpo and its tributaries, from Xigaze to Tsetang, where Tibetan Buddhism developed in the late 8th century and water form the river is used to irrigate crops in otherwise dry areas.

The Tsangpo narrows at Pei and drops into a rapid-filled, 3050-meter (10,000-foot) -deep gorge that seems like an escape route carved out of the Himalayas. Here the river makes a right hand turn towards India and drops a phenomenal 2133 meters (7,000 feet) in 240 kilometers (150 miles). This section of the river is known as the Siang to the Chinese, who want to someday harness the river into the world’s greatest generator of hydroelectric power. The area is also the site of massive logging operations. Travel here is restricted and even if it wasn't travel in the region is very difficult. There are few roads and the ones that exist are treacherous and often washed out or closed by landslides. The river is too wild to negotiate in boats and is crossed by cables rather bridges.

Route of the Brahmaputra After Tibet

The Siang flows through an area claimed by both China and India and has been the site of some fighting. China rejects the McMahon Line drawn between Tibet and British India in 1914. Many explorers who have attempted to explore this difficult stretch of the rivers did not return to tell the tale. It wasn't until 1924 that the area was explored by Europeans. In 1962, the Chinese invaded this area and the Indian military has a strong presence in the area today.

As the river enters the Assam Valley it become officially known as the Brahmaputra. Here the river broadens and is fed by rivers coming out of some the rainiest parts of the world. River ferries run along some sections around Dibrugarh. Further down river the Brahmaputra passes by Kaziranga National Park, sometimes flooding it and killing rare one-horned rhinos. The Brahmaputra enters Bangladesh as the Jamuna, joins the Ganges to form the Padma and ends as the Meghna, which splits into a massive delta that empties into the Bay of Bengal at a rate of 2.3 million cubic feet of water a second.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the 77,700-square-kilometer (30,000-square-mile) delta created by the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India is the world's largest delta. Ever year the Brahmaputra and Ganges system carries two billion tons of sediment out to sea. More than any other river system, even the Amazon. The sediment creates islands known as chars, which are utilized for farming but are vulnerable to floods.

In Bangladesh, the Brahmaputra is so wide there are no bridges across it, only ferries. Even so the river is the Bangladesh's main transportation system. Boats of all sized and shapes fill the river. There are large passenger ferries, waters water taxis and noaka loaded with a variety of gods. Most are propelled by boatmen with a single oar. Some of the sailing vessels look like Viking ships. There are even some old paddlewheelers in operation. Fishermen use variety of nets and poles.

Yarlung Tsangpo: Highest River in the World

The Yarlung Tsangpo is the highest river in the world based on the fact that about one-third of the river flows at an altitude of over 4,000 meters (13,125 feet) and about three-quarters of the river flows over 2475 meters (9,000 feet) above the sea level. The rivers runs for 2,057 kilometers in Tibet.

The source of the Yarlung Tsangpo is Angsi Glacier at an elevation of 5,210 meters (17,090 feet) in western Tibet, southeast of Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, Phuntsogling is a monastery in western Tibet near the source. The Yarling Tsangpo’s longest tributary is the Nyang River. Other major tributaries include the Nyangchu River, Lhasa River, and Parlung Tsangpo. As the river descends, the surrounding vegetation changes from cold desert to arid steppe to deciduous scrub vegetation and to conifer and rhododendron forest. The tree line is approximately 3,200 meters (10,500 feet). Sedimentary sandstone rocks found near Lhasa contain grains of magnetic minerals that record the Earth's alternating magnetic poles. [Source: Wikipedia +]

The Yarlung Tsangpo River has only major waterfalls on its entire course. The largest waterfall of the river, the "Hidden Falls", was not publicized in the West until 1998, when its sighting by Westerners was briefly hailed as a "discovery" even though it had been described to early Westerners by Tibetan hunters and Buddhist monks. Chinese authorities said that Chinese geographers, who had explored the gorge since 1973, took pictures of the falls in 1987 from a helicopter. +

Among kayakers the Yarlung Tsangpo is sometimes called the "Everest of Rivers" because of its extreme conditions and the difficulties kayaking it. Since the 1990s the Yarlung Tsangpo River has been the destination of a number of expeditions. The first attempt to run was made in 1993 by a Japanese group who lost one member on the river. In October 1998, a National-Geographic-sponsored expedition was hampered by unanticipated high water levels and expert kayaker Doug Gordon was killed. In January–February, 2002, an international group consisting of Scott Lindgren, Steve Fisher, Mike Abbott, Allan Ellard, Dustin Knapp, and Johnnie and Willie Kern, completed the first descent of the upper Tsangpo gorge section. +

Yarlung Tsangpo (Upper Brahmaputra) River Region

The Yarlung Tsangpo River region (South of Lake Yamdrok) was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: Covering the valley of the middle reach of Yarlung Tsangpo River, its branches and some lakes on the Tibetan Plateau, Yarlung Tsangpo River region (Yalong) is the cradle of Tibetan culture. The extant relics, artifacts and ancient sites demonstrate the early civilization of the Tibetans, including their early religion, culture, arts and society. Yarlung Tsangpo River region covers an area of 1350 square kilometers. It is an area of high cultural and natural value on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. This region belongs to plateau temperate semi-arid monsoon climate, with strong sunshine, strong radiation and thin air. Average annual temperature is 8. 3 degrees and annual rainfall is between 330 and 390 millimeters. Average annual total radiation in Zedang is 172kcal/square cm. The average atmospheric pressure is between 60,000Pa and 70,000Pa. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China]

“The middle reach of Yarlung Tsangpo River is the biggest valley region on the Tibetan Plateau. The discontinuous ultra basic rocks and exotic rocks demonstrate the action of crust and Earth mantle. The snow mountains, gorges and lakes create unique ecological types and demonstrate rich plateau landscapes. Because Yarlung Tsangpo River cuts through the Himalayas and opens a passageway for the warm and wet atmosphere from the Bangladesh Bay to flow into the valley of Yarlung Tsangpo River region, favorable water and heat conditions have been provided for the early development of the Tibetans.

“More than ten thousand years ago, the ancestors of the Tibetans chose here as their place for settlement and formed their unique way of living. In the 3rd century B. C. , Yarlung Tsangpo River region tribes were formed and in 217 B. C. the first Tibetan king created a slavery system kingdom. As the origin of the Tibetan culture, Yarlung Tsangpo River region have seen early agriculture and animal husbandry development and the development of unique Tibetan culture. Here one can find well-kept early gathering places, palaces, temples, burial grounds and manors. The early Tibetan characters, poems, operas, medicine, astronomy and calendars were also created here. As the origin of Tibetan Buddhism, the role of the ancient temples in the region is irreplaceable. It was from here that the Tibetan Buddhism gradually influenced Tibet and the vast area of west and northern China.

“Two out of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in Tibet — Habu Mountain and Gongburi Mountain — and sacred lake — Lamunamucuo (meaning “the lake of Mother Buddha “) are in this region. Every reincarnated boy of the previous Dalai is found with the revelation of the sacred lake. This region is also the place where the earliest Tibetan characters and operas were created.” [Coordinates: 28°40'-29°30' N / 90°50'-92°20' E]

Geology and Ecosystems of Yarlung Tsangpo River region

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The geological structure of this region is very complicated. The area to the north of Yarlung Tsangpo River belongs to Mesozoic depression belt and late Yanshan Era-Himalayas Era granite of northern Gangdisi Mountain Range;the area to the south of the River is metamorphic flysch rock belt of northern Himalayas. In this region, the Quaternary strata are thick and well developed and are dotted with a lot of gyittja, river facies sediment and glacial drifts of different glacial periods. The relative height between high peaks and low valleys is 1500 meters. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China]

“With the interaction of glaciers and rivers, magnificent scenes of high mountains, grand rivers and big valleys were created. Many hot springs, waterfalls and karst caves can also be found here. Yarlung Tsangpo River is the highest large river in the world. A section of about 302 kilometers of the Yarlung Tsangpo River is in this region, with an average elevation of more than 3,000 meters. The East-West straight valley is a typical tectonic valley developed on the margin zone of Indian Plate in the south and Eurasian Plate in the north.

“The maximum flow of the river is 3,250 cubic meters per second. The widest place in the valley of the middle reach of the river is 7 kilometers. The river develops into a network shape and the wide valley forms the Zedang plain area. Yarlung Tsangpo River region River, a branch of Yarlung Tsangpo River, originates in the northern part of Cuomeisangwula Mountain, takes in the melted snow water from Yadongtianxiangbu snow mountain (elevation 6, 635. 8m;with large area of modern glacier), and flows into Yarlung Tsangpo River at Zedang Plain.

“Yamdrok Lake, a plateau lake and one of the three “sacred lakes” of Tibet, is formed by river sediment clogging the original tree-like river course. The lake, with an elevation of 4, 445 meters and maximum depth of 60 m, covers an area of 638 square kilometers. The clear lake and the swamps and meadows by the lake together create extremely beautiful scenery. In this region there is rich bio-diversity and one finds typical natural vertical belts:temperate grassland belt-alpine grassland belt-alpine tall grass meadow belt-alpine frigid sparse vegetation on alpine scree belt (snow peeks). The vegetation in the valley is shrubs dotted by trees. There are 683 species of common plants, 7 species of ferns, 7 species of gymnosperm and 669 species of angiosperm. Animals under state grade one protection are Equuskiang, Grusnigricollis, Teteraogallus tibetanus, Cervusalbirostris and argali. Yamdrok Lake, the “fish storage of Tibet”, is abundant in fish, mainly schizothorax and plateau carp. There are a dozen bird islands on the lake.”

Early History of Yarlung Tsangpo River region

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Yarlung Tsangpo River region is where the ancestors of the Tibetans lived and is the cradle of the Tibetan culture. A lot of early Tibetan cultural artifacts and sites demonstrate the religious, social, cultural and scientific and technological development at that time. Before 633 A. D. , when Songzanganbu unified Tibet and moved his cultural center to Lhasa, Yarlung Tsangpo River region had always been the political and cultural center of Tibet and had been playing an important role. Changguo Ruins, a complete relics site of a primitive village in Neolithic Age, demonstrate that this was the place where the Tibetans settled 10,000 years ago. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China]

“According to ancient Tibetan books, the legend that the Tibetans were the offspring of monkeys and fairy has its origin in this region. The agriculture and animal husbandry here have always been quite developed. The valleys in the middle reach of Yarlung Tsangpojiang River and the valleys of Yalog. River are the major agricultural region and are claimed as the “granary of Tibet”. Yangzuoyongcuo Lake is one of the important ranges in Tibet due to rich grass around the lake. The first palace in the history of Tibet-Yongbulakang Palace was built in the 2nd century B. C. on the top of the Zhaxiciri Mountain. The magnificent palace demonstrated typical Tibetan style. Later Dalai V expanded and rebuilt the palace into a temple, which is kept intact now.

“The first Buddhist palace in the history of Tibet-Changzhu Temple, built in the 7th century, was one of the first Buddhist temples built during the reign of Songzanganbu. After three expansions and improvement, the complex now covers an area of 4, 660 square meters. In the temple there is a priceless treasure — a “picture of Avalokitesvara” made of pearls. “

Temples, Monasteries and Dzongs of Yarlung Tsangpo River region

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: In 767, the first Tibetan temple with Buddha’s sculpture, Buddhist sutra and monks — Shangye Temple — was built. It was the grandest building during the Tubo Dynasty and was the political center of that time. The complex covers an area of 120,000 square meters and has a floor area of 25,000 square meters. The layout of the temple was an imitation of the ”Datura” pattern of the Indian school of Buddhism. The main hall is a combination of the building styles of Tibet, Chinese Han and India, which reflects the integration of the three cultures. “The ‘picture of Tibetan history’, claimed as the Tibetan “Records of the Historian”, is a 92 meters long mural. The 8th century classic Tibetan medical book Complete Works of Medicine was discovered nearby the temple in 1012. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China]

“Qingpu, 15 kilometers away from Sangye Temple, is another place of Buddhist activities, where one can find many carya caves (carya caves are natural caves used by famous Indian monks Lianhuasheng and Jihu when they were invited to Tibet to spread Buddhism. Now about 40 such caves are well preserved), sky burial platform, springs and a lot of basreliefs on precipices and pagodas. Buried underground are “fuzang”-buried sutras to be discovered.

“The Minzhulin Temple was acclaimed as the No. 1 Seat of Learning of Tibet. It was built at the end of the 10th century and later was expanded into an institution of higher learning in the 17th century. In the temple, not only sutras, but also Sanskrit language, medicine, calendar and astronomy were studied. It also provided biannual Tibetan calendar, which is still used today. The existing buildings in the temple cover a floor, space of 100,000 square meters. The earliest and biggest royal mausoleums, the Tibetan Mausoleums, were built in the 8th century when Tibet was unified. There were originally 21 mausoleums and now only 16 remain. The graveyard covers an area of 3,050,000 square meters. The owners of 9 mausoleums have been identified. Further textual research and excavation will be needed.

“Many of the well-kept remains in the region are evidence of the important “dzong xi” administration system in the social development of Tibet. Dansati Temple was built in 1158 and is the first temple of Gaju School. In 1354 Qiangqujianzan established Pazhu Dynasty and practiced “dzong xi” system to turn Tibetan society from a slavery system into a feudal serf system. Now there are many complete “dzong” and “xi ka” remains. The “dzong” (county) includes Qiongjie Dzong (on the top of Qiangwadazi mountain;elevation 3, 800 meters;area 1, 600square meters;the current remains were built during the time of Dalai I), Qiaga Dzong, Woka Dzong, Baima Dzong. The “xi ka” (manor)includes Langsailin Manor (built in the late Tubo Dynasty and expanded to current scale in Pazhu Dynasty;the main building has 7 floors and is 22 meters high;the main building and main walls are kept intact;the buildings were built by using special construction methods using stone and earth), the 12th century Dalai Manor and Ludingpozhong. The influence of Yarlung Tsangpo River region valley on the Tibetans remains today.”

Yarlung Tsangpo Valley: World’s Deepest Valley

Yarlung Tsangpo Valley is the world's deepest valley. According to the Guinness Book of Records, it is 5075 meters (16,650 feet) deep and between the peaks Namche Barwa (1,783 meters, 25,536 feet) and Jala Peri (7,281 meters, 23,891 feet), which are 13 miles apart with the Yarling Tsangpo River in between.The Yarlung Tsangpo Great Canyon is the world's largest canyon, covering 17,000 square kilometers. It has 17 snow-clad peaks above 6,000 meters.

The river region features fertile mountain valleys such as those found on Yarlung Tsangpo River (the upper courses of the Brahmaputra) and its major tributary, the Nyang River, the Salween, the Yangtze, the Mekong, and the Yellow River. The Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon, formed by a horseshoe bend in the river, is the deepest, and maybe longest canyon in the world. Among the mountains there are many narrow valleys. Some of the most populated parts of Tibet — the valleys of Lhasa, Shigatse, Gyantse and the Brahmaputra — are found here. There is no permafrost here. The land has rich soil and is well irrigated, and richly cultivated.

The South Tibet Valley is formed by the Yarlung Tsangpo River during its middle reaches, where it travels from west to east. The valley is approximately 1200 kilometers long and 300 kilometers wide. The valley descends from 4500 meters above sea level to 2800 meters. The mountains on either side of the valley are usually around 5000 meters high. Lakes here include Lake Paiku and Lake Puma Yumco.

It The Yarlung Tsangpo River makes a very sharp turn when it meets the snowcapped Mt. Namcha Barwa, which soars 7,782 meters. The turn is so sharp that a great canyon larger and more spectacular than the Grand Canyon of Colorado River forms. The Great Canyon of Yarlung Tsangpo's depth reaches 5,382 meters and it has a total length of 496.3 kilometers, about 56 kilometers longer than the Grand Canyon in Colorado.

Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon

The Yarlung Tsangpo Great Canyon is the world's largest and deepest canyon, covering 17,000 square kilometers. It has 17 snow-clad peaks above 6,000 meters. According to the Guinness Book of Records, it is 5075 meters (16,650 feet) deep and between the peaks Namche Barwa (7,783 meters, 25,536 feet) and Jala Peri (7,281 meters, 23,891 feet), which are 13 miles apart with the Yarling Tsangpo River in between.

The Tsangpo narrows at Pei and drops into a rapid-filled, 3050-meter (10,000-foot) -deep gorge that seems like an escape route carved out of the Himalayas. Here the river makes a right hand turn towards India and drops a phenomenal 2133 meters (7,000 feet) in 240 kilometers (150 miles). Travel here is restricted and even if it wasn't travel in the region is very difficult. There are few roads and the ones that exist are treacherous and often washed out or closed by landslides. The river is too wild to negotiate in boats and is crossed by cables rather bridges.

The Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon is lies in Mainling and Medog counties, where the river swerves around towering Namche Barwa, the highest peak in the eastern section of the Himalayas and carved a U-shaped gorge. The canyon is home to many animals and plants barely explored and affected by human influence. The climate ranges from subtropical to Arctic.

The Great Canyon of Yarlung Tsangpo's reaches 5,382 meters in depth and is 496.3 kilometers long, about 56 kilometers longer than the Grand Canyon in Arizona. There are precipitous cliffs, hotsprings, waterfalls and primeval forests. Wet winds from the Indian plains blow into the area. The complex and unique geographic and climate conditions make it haven for rare and unique plants and animals, some existing nowhere else on earth. Some Menba and Luoba people live here. It takes a month to walk through the Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon . From July to October is the season for entering the canyon. Admission: 150 yuan (April 21-Oct.19); 75 yuan (Oct 20-April 20)

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, Nolls China Web site; CNTO; Perrochon photo site;; University of Washington; Ohio State University; UNESCO; Wikipedia; Julie Chao photo site

Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization),, UNESCO, reports submitted to UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, China Daily, Xinhua, Global Times, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020

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