Gyantse is surrounded by hills with vast valley around it. It is nestling at the foot of this natural amphitheatre. From the hills above Gyantse you can get a view of it. You can see whitewashed houses and narrow, winding streets of the old town. Along the western side of the town there is a new road leading to the main entrance of the Pelkor Choede monastery complex. The town is dominated by a high, barren peak. Along the ridge of the peak sprout the walls of the Dzong, or fort.
Gyantse fort was constructed in the 14th century to protect Lhasa from the South. Original wall was built earlier, and was approximately 3 km long.
Gyantse first came to prominence during the fifteenth century, when it served as the capital of a small kingdom. The kingdom was established by a series of enterprising warlords from the region. Historically, Gyantse was the third largest town in Tibet, after Lhasa and Shigatse. In recent years, many Chinese moved to Tibet and new towns grew at a faster rate than Gyantse.
The largest stupa in Tibet – Kumbum Chorten and Pelkor Choede monastery were built around 14/15th centuries. Nine major monasteries were built in the vicinity of the town throughout the history. The exquisite Kumbum and the daunting castle still bear witness to the powers that ruled at the time.
Gyantse is located on the trade routes, connecting Lhasa on the East, Shigatse on the West, and India on the South. That’s why it became the main center for Tibet’s wool trade with India, Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim.
In 1904 it became the focal point of the British expedition to Tibet under Colonel Younghusband. The British soldiers approached Tibet by the trade route leading to Gyantse. The battle happened near Gyantse, in which several hundred Tibetans were shot dead by the superior British firearms. After storming the castle, Younghusband and his troops billeted here for a month before proceeding to Lhasa. Finally, British and Tibetans reached an agreement. According to this agreement, British trade agent was stationed at Gyantse. The British also opened a small school there.
PLACES TO VISIT IN GYANTSE
The Stupa (or Chorten as Tibetans call it) is located within the monastery walls and it is difficult to miss. The 32 meters/ 105 ft high structure is the highest stupa in Tibet. It contains 108 cells with various wall paintings and statues. From the higher levels of the Kumbum Stupa, you will get a fantastic view of the monastery, surrounding fort (Dzong), and Gyantse town.
The old fort of Gyantse (called Dzong in Tibetan) surrounds Pelkor Choede monastery complex and Gyantse town. The original fort is from the 13th century, it was further renovated and reconstructed later.
The gorgeous turquoise-colored lake is located about 90 km away from Gyantse. The lake attracts thousands of tourists. It is a sacred lake for Tibetans, they don’t catch fish in the lake, and they don’t swim in it. And you can enjoy it’s beauty from the height of the mountain pass or come down to the lakeshore.