Last updated

རྒྱལ་རྩེ · 江孜镇
View of Old Gyantse and Palcho Monastery from Gyantse Dzong
China Tibet Autonomous Region rel location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location in the Tibet Autonomous Region
Coordinates(Gyantse town government): 28°54′53″N89°36′16″E / 28.9148°N 89.6045°E / 28.9148; 89.6045
Country People's Republic of China
Province Tibet Autonomous Region
Prefecture-level city Shigatse
County Gyantse
Time zone UTC+8 (CST)

Gyantse, officially Gyangzê Town (also spelled Gyangtse; Tibetan : རྒྱལ་རྩེ, Wylie : rgyal rtse, ZYPY : Gyangzê; simplified Chinese :江孜镇; traditional Chinese :江孜鎮; pinyin :Jiāngzī Zhèn), is a town located in Gyantse County, Shigatse Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region, China. It was historically considered the third largest and most prominent town in the Tibet region (after Lhasa, and Shigatse), but there are now at least ten larger Tibetan cities. [1]



A 1954 map of Gyantse Txu-oclc-10552568-nh45-16.jpg
A 1954 map of Gyantse

In 1904, the British expedition to Tibet reached Gyantse on 11 April. The town's garrison had already fled, and the expedition's members entered the town bloodlessly through the front gates, which were opened for them, and occupied Gyantse. After the town was occupied, several British officers visited the Palcho Monastery and seized several statues and scrolls. During the occupation, the town's inhabitants continued to go about their business, and the expedition's medical officer, Herbert James Walton, attended to their medical needs, including performing several operations to correct the common problem of cleft palates. The expedition's officers spent time exploring the town and carrying out fishing or hunting trips in the surrounding countryside. Eventually, the expedition concluded a treaty with the Tibetan authorities, which stipulated that a British trade agent and garrison would be stationed at Gyantse. [2]

In 1919, Sir Walter Buchanan, a member of the Royal Geographical Society, travelled into the Chumbi Valley and visited the British garrison at Gyantse, describing it as "small" and noting that it consisted primarily of Indian troops. [3] During the reign of the 13th Dalai Lama, a military academy was established by the British in Gyantse to train Tibetan Army officers. [4] During World War II, the British continued to maintain a garrison in Gyantse, though it was eventually disbanded by 1947. [5] [6] [7]


The town is strategically located in the Nyang Chu valley on the ancient trade routes from the Chumbi Valley, Yatung and Sikkim, which met here. From Gyantse, routes led to Shigatse downstream and also over the Kora La (Pass) to Central Tibet. [8] The fortress (constructed in 1390) [9] guarded the southern approaches to the Yarlung Tsangpo Valley and Lhasa. [10] The town was surrounded by a wall 3 km long. [11]


In 1952, Gyantse had a population of perhaps 8,000 people, [12] about the same as in 2008. [13] It is 3,977 meters (13,050 ft) above sea level, and is located 254 km southwest of Lhasa in the fertile plain of the Nyang river valley and on a side branch of the Friendship Highway, which connects Kathmandu, Nepal to Lhasa. Gyantse was the third largest city in Tibet before being overtaken by Qamdo.


Gyantse is notable for its restored Gyantse Dzong or fort, and its magnificent tiered Kumbum (literally: '100,000 images') of the Palcho Monastery, the largest chörten in Tibet. The Kumbum was commissioned by a Gyantse prince in 1427 and was an important centre of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. This religious structure contains 77 chapels in its six floors, and is illustrated with over 10,000 murals, many showing a strong Nepali influence, which have survived almost entirely intact. They are the last of its kind to be found in Tibet. Many of the restored clay statues are of less artistry than the destroyed originals - but they are still spectacular. [14] [15]

Gyantse with the Dzong fortress in the background. 1995. Tibet-gyantse-1994.jpg
Gyantse with the Dzong fortress in the background. 1995.
Main street Gyantse, with Kumbum on left and fort above. 1993 Gyantse with Kumbum & fort - Edited.jpg
Main street Gyantse, with Kumbum on left and fort above. 1993
Gyantse Fortress Gyantse Fortress.jpg
Gyantse Fortress

The town was nearly destroyed by flooding in 1954. After rioting in 1959, local industries were dismantled and artisans fled while others were placed in workcamps. Some 400 monks and laypeople were imprisoned in the monastery. [11] During the Cultural Revolution, the fort, the monastery and Kumbum were ransacked. Precious objects were destroyed or sent out of Tibet. The chorten was spared. [11]

The main building of the Pelkor Chode or Palcho Monastery and the Kumbum have been largely restored but the dzong or fort is still largely in ruins. During the 20th century, the Chinese government established the "Anti-British Imperialism Museum" in Gyantse, which exhibits the state narrative on the 1904 British expedition. [16] The sculpture that forms the centerpiece of the museum are two "Tibetan" warriors, but they were based on photos taken by Lt. G. J. Davys in Chumbi Valley of non-Tibetans doing fake battles, and the armor were worn backwards. [17]


Gyantse has an elevation-influenced humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification: Dwb).

Climate data for Gyantse (1991–2020 normals)
Mean daily maximum °C (°F)5.9
Daily mean °C (°F)−3.8
Mean daily minimum °C (°F)−13.1
Average precipitation mm (inches)0.3
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm)
Average snowy days0.
Average relative humidity (%)30303340465467706245383846
Mean monthly sunshine hours 272.2251.5276.2273.1295.9273.4224.6224.6244.3294.0283.6280.93,194.3
Percent possible sunshine 83797470706653566784898873
Source: China Meteorological Administration [18] [19]


  1. Dorje (1999), p. 254.
  2. Chisholm 1911.
  3. Sir Walter Buchanan, A recent trip into the Chumbi Valley, Tibet, The Royal Geographical Society, 1919.
  4. Wang Jiawei et Nyima Gyaincain, The Tibetan Army's First Eastward Invasion Archived 27 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine , in The Historical Status of China's Tibet, China Intercontinental Press, 1997.
  5. Hank Baker’s obituary notice,, 4 March 2006.
  6. Sanderson Beck, Tibet, Nepal, and Ceylon, 1800-1950.
  7. BBC Radio 4 23 September 2013 11a.m
  8. Dowman (1988), p. 269
  9. Vitali (1990), p. 30.
  10. Allen (2004), p. 30.
  11. 1 2 3 Buckley, Michael and Strauss, Robert (1986), p. 158.
  12. Richardson (1984), p. 7.
  13. "Tibet: Transformation and tradition." BBC News 5 March 2008.
  14. Dowman (1988), p. 270.
  15. Mayhew (2005), p. 167.
  16. Mayhew (2005), p. 168.
  17. Harris (2012), p.130-135
  18. 中国气象数据网 – WeatherBk Data (in Simplified Chinese). China Meteorological Administration . Retrieved 27 September 2023.
  19. 中国气象数据网 (in Simplified Chinese). China Meteorological Administration . Retrieved 27 September 2023.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Potala Palace</span> Fortress in Lhasa, Tibet

The Potala Palace is a dzong fortress in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in China. It was the winter palace of the Dalai Lamas from 1649 to 1959, has been a museum since then, and a World Heritage Site since 1994.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Samzhubzê, Xigazê</span> District in Tibet, China

Samzhubzê District is a district in the Tibet Autonomous Region of the China, and the administrative center of the prefecture-level city of Shigatse. Prior to 2014 it was known as the county-level city of Shigatse. It was the ancient capital of Ü-Tsang province and is the second largest city in Tibet with an estimated population of 117,000 in 2013. Samzhubzê is located at the confluence of the Yarlung Tsangpo River and the Nyang River, about 250 km (160 mi) southwest of Lhasa and 90 km (56 mi) northwest of Gyantse, at an altitude of 3,840 metres (12,600 ft).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tashi Lhunpo Monastery</span> Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Shigatse, Tibet, China

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery is an historically and culturally important monastery in Shigatse, the second-largest city in Tibet. Founded in 1447 by the 1st Dalai Lama, it is the traditional monastic seat of the Panchen Lama.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yadong County</span> County in Tibet, China

Yadong County, also known by its Tibetan name Dromo/TromoCounty is a frontier county and trade-market of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, part of its Shigatse Prefecture.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kumbum</span> Type of Tibetan Buddhist temple

A Kumbum is a multi-storied aggregate of Buddhist chapels in Tibetan Buddhism. The most famous Kumbum forms part of Palcho Monastery.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Palcho Monastery</span> Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Gyantse, Tibet, China

The Palcho Monastery or Pelkor Chode Monastery or Shekar Gyantse is the main monastery in the Nyangchu river valley in Gyantse, Gyantse County, Shigatse Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region. The monastery precinct is a complex of structures which, apart from the Tsuklakhang Monastery, also includes its Kumbum, believed to be the largest such structure in Tibet, that is most notable for its 108 chapels in its several floors and the old Dzong or fort.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shelkar</span> Town in Tibet Autonomous Region, China

Shelkar or Shekar, also called New Tingri, is the administrative centre for Tingri County, Shigatse Prefecture in southern Tibet Autonomous Region.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Phari</span> Town in Tibet Autonomous Region, Peoples Republic of China

Phari or Pagri is a town in Yadong County in the Tibet Autonomous Region, China near the border with Bhutan. The border can be accessed through a secret road/trail connecting Tsento Gewog in Bhutan known as Tremo La. As of 2004 the town had a population of 2,121. It is one of the highest towns in the world, being about 4,300 m (14,100 ft) above sea-level at the head of the Chumbi Valley.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">British expedition to Tibet</span> 1903–1904 military expedition

The British expedition to Tibet, also known as the Younghusband expedition, began in December 1903 and lasted until September 1904. The expedition was effectively a temporary invasion by British Indian Armed Forces under the auspices of the Tibet Frontier Commission, whose purported mission was to establish diplomatic relations and resolve the dispute over the border between Tibet and Sikkim. In the nineteenth century, the British had conquered Burma and Sikkim, with the whole southern flank of Tibet coming under the control of the British Indian Empire. Tibet ruled by the Dalai Lama under the Ganden Phodrang government was a Himalayan state under the protectorate of the Chinese Qing dynasty until the 1911 Revolution, after which a period of de facto Tibetan independence (1912–1951) followed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ngor</span> Destroyed Tibetan Buddhist monastery near Shigatse, Tibet, China

Ngor or Ngor Éwam Chöden is the name of a monastery in the Ü-Tsang province of Tibet about 20 kilometres (12 mi) southwest of Shigatse and is the Sakya school's second most important gompa. It is the main temple of the large Ngor school of Vajrayana Buddhism, which represents eighty-five percent of the Sakya school.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lhatse (town)</span> Place in Tibet, Peoples Republic of China

The new town of Lhatse or Lhatse Xian, also known as Quxar (Tibetan: ཆུ་ཤར་, Quxia, or Chusar, is a small town of a few thousand people in the Tibet Autonomous Region in the valley of the Yarlung Tsangpo River in Lhatse County, 151 kilometres southwest of Shigatse and just west of the mountain pass leading to it. Lhatse is 4,050 metres above sea-level. Lhatse recorded the highest temperature of 28.9 °C in locations above 4,000 meters above sea level.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tradruk Temple</span> Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yarlung Valley, Tibet, China

Tradruk Temple in the Yarlung Valley is the earliest great geomantic temple after the Jokhang and some sources say it predates that temple.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yatung</span> Town in Tibet, China

Yatung or Yadong, also known as Shasima , is the principal town in the Chumbi Valley or Yadong County in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. It is also its administrative headquarters.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Postage stamps and postal history of Tibet</span>

This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of Tibet.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Drongtse Monastery</span> Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Tsang, Tibet, China

Drongtse Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery was formerly one of the most important Gelug monasteries in Tsang, Tibet. There was also a chorten there.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gyantse Dzong</span> Dzong in Tibet

Gyantse Dzong or Gyantse Fortress is one of the best preserved dzongs in Tibet, perched high above the town of Gyantse on a huge spur of grey brown rock.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tsechen Monastery and Dzong</span>

Tsechen Monastery was a Tibetan monastery located approximately 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) northwest of Gyantse. It was one of the largest of the fortified monasteries constructed in Tibet, and was located above a village also known as Tsechen. Constructed "on another precipitous hill about 600 feet high, about one mile long, and rising abruptly out of the plain", the monastery was similar to the Gyantse Dzong in terms of the strength of its fortifications. During the 1904 British expedition to Tibet by Colonel Francis Younghusband, the monastery was occupied by Tibetan troops, which used it to resist the expedition's advance. Younghusband's forces captured the monastery and sacked and burnt it; some of the hilltop walls are all that remain of the structure.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shigatse Dzong</span>

The Shigatse Dzong, also known as Samdruptse Dzong, is located in Shigatse, Tibet, China. It is spelt Rikaze Dzong.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Convention of Lhasa</span> 1904 treaty between Tibet and Great Britain

The Convention of Lhasa, officially the Convention Between Great Britain and Thibet, was a treaty signed in 1904 between Tibet and Great Britain, in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, then a protectorate of the Qing dynasty. It was signed following the British expedition to Tibet of 1903–1904, a military expedition led by Colonel Francis Younghusband, and was followed by the Anglo-Chinese Convention of 1906.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thangka wall</span> Structures in Tibet to display thangkas during festivals

A thangka wall is, in Tibetan religious architecture, a stone-built structure used for hanging giant, or monumental, appliqued thangkas, or scrolls, in some of the major Buddhist monasteries of Tibet. These giant thangkas are called gos ku, goku, gheku, kiku in Tibetan, and thongdrel in Bhutan. The thangka wall stands on a hillside from where it overlooks the monastic settlement. Its form is that of a narrow, elongated and tall rectangular building with a battered façade and a flat roof surrounded by a parapet. The side and rear walls are normally vertical.