Shannan City is a prefecture-level city in southeast of Tibet Autonomous Region. It is located in the middle reache of the Yarlung Tsangbo River, south of Gangdise Mountain to Nyainqentanglha Mountain. It borders Lhasa City to the north, Shigatse City to the west, Nyingchi City to the east, and India and Bhutan to the south. It has a border line of more than 630 kilometers. Parts of the Cona County and Lhunze County of Shannan City are disputed with India.
Shannan was called “Yarlong” or “Lhoka” in Tibetan. It is birthplace of Tibetan people and Tibetan culture. There is the first palace of Tibet – Yongbulakang, and the first Buddhist hall – Changzhu (“Trndruk ) Monastery, the first monastery of Samye Monastery, the first king – Nyatri Tsenpo, the first Tibetan Opera – Bagabu, the first area to cultivate land, the first land measurement, the first water irrigation, the first storage of forage, and casting into metal for the first time”, Shannan City has almost all the “firsts” of Tibet.
Tsetang of Nedong District is the capital of Shannan City, it is also the tourist center and most important transportation hub of Shannan City. It is 3560 meters above sea level, about 96 kilometers from Lhasa Gonggar Airport, 158 kilometers from Lhasa City, 322 kilometers from Shigatse City, and Gyangze County 310 kilometers,
Best time to travel Throughout the year
Local climate Temperate arid climate, the southern border zone is a plateau subarctic semi-arid climate
The La-lin Railway under construction will pass through Shannan City and set up 5 stations of Gongga, Dranang, Zedang, Sangri and Jiacha to connect with Sichuan-Tibet Railway.
Lhasa Gongga Airport is located in Gongga County, on the south bank of the Yarlung Zangbo River, with an altitude of 3,600 meters, a runway of 4,000 meters long and 45 meters wide.
Shannan City has 1 municipal district and 11 counties under its jurisdiction.
Among of which:
–Nedong District, Qusum County, Sangri County, Comai County, Zhanang County, Gyaca County and Cona County are located in the middle valley of the Yarlung Zangbo River
–Gongga County, Lhunze County, Lhozhag County and Nagarze County are located in the Himalayas
–Nagarze County, Cona County, Lhozhag County borders India and Bhutan
Most popular sites
Changzhu Monastery, also knownas “Tradruk Monastery“, located on the southeast bank of the Yarlong River in Changzhu Town, belongs to Gelug pa. It was built during Songtsen Gambo period, and it is said that Princess Wencheng once practiced in this monastery. Padmasambhava and Milarepa were both to practice in and around Changzhu Monastery. Pearl Thangka is the treasure of Changzhu Monastery, which is 2 meters long and 1.2 meters wide. It consumed 29,026 pearls and being inlaid with diamonds and gems of various colors. Its form is similar to Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. There are 12 Buddhist halls in the monastery.
Tomb of Tibet Kings, located on the south side of River in Qonggyai County, is the tomb complex of Tibet Kings, ministers and princesses from the 29th generation to the 40th generation (last generation) of Tubo kingdom. It covers an area of 385 square kilometers. This tomb complex has high value on discovering social, political, and economic of Tubo dynasty
Samye Monastery is located in Samye Town of Zhanang County. It was built in the 8th century and was the first monastery in Tibet. The monastery was laid out according to the Buddhist cosmology. The assembly hall has three styles of Tibetan, Chines, and Indian, therefore Samye Monastery is also called Three Style Monastery, and there are now more than 50 monks in Samye Monastery.
Zhatang Monastery, also known as “Dratang Monastery“, was founded in 1081 AD, and its entire architectural layout was to follow “Mandala of Tantric Buddhism”. Zhatang Monastery is one of the earliest buildings in Tibet. Its unique murals have not been found in other areas except for the remnants of Shalu Monastery which was built in the same period as Zhatang. These precious historical relics have extremely high value for the study of early Tibetan murals, foreign influences, costumes, etc.
Lagari Palace Ruin, also known as “Lhagyari“, is a palace complex located on the south side of Qusum County. It is a symbol of royal power retained by family forces of Tubo royal family descendants after going through the Sakya regime and Pazhuo regime.
The existing buildings can be divided into early, middle and late phases.
–The early building was called “Tashi Qunzong” in Tibetan. It was built in 13th century, and the remaining are of the palace wall with a height of 12 meters and North and South gates
–The mid-term building is called “Ganden Lhatse” in Tibetan. It was built in 15th century; it is the main existing building of Lagari Palace Ruins. It consists of palace, warehouses, Lhakhang, square, stables, etc. It was originally 5 floors and is now in existence 3 floors. Some murals still remain;
–The late building was called “Summer Palace” and was built in the 18th century. The existing part is a basically complete courtyard palace.
Jidui Tubo Tombs, located in Lhozhag County, are distributed on the mountainside in south side of Jidui Township. It covers an area of about 500,000 square meters. It is an ancient tomb of the Tubo period, built around Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). Jidui Tubo Tombs was announced as the fifth batch of national key cultural relics protection units in 2001
Langselin Manor, also known as “Langselin”, means “land of God of wealth” in Tibetan. It is located in Langsailin Village of Zhanang County, It faces Samye Monastery across the Yarlung Tsangbo River and is 25 kilometers away from Tsetang Town. It is a national key cultural relics protection unit.
Sekha Gutuo Monastery, also known as “Sekhar Gutuk Monastery“, is located about 50 kilometers south of Lhozhag County. Its wall is 98 meters long from east to west and 48 meters wide from north to south. It mainly preserves the inheritance deeds and figure murals of Kagyu pa, early murals of Tibetan Mendang painting school and Tubo scriptures. In 2001, it was announced as the fifth batch of national key cultural relics protection units by the State Council
Songka Stone Pagoda is located at the foot of a rocky mountain on the bank of Yalung Tsangpo River about 15 kilometers west of Samye monastery with altitude of 3650 meters above sea level. There are a total of five stone Pagodas in different sizes, all of which are carved in white. They are all carved from a monolithic boulder with a height of about 2 meters. The construction date is unknown. It is said that these five stone pagodas were designed and carved by Master Padmasambhava, the founder of the Nyingma pa of Tibetan Buddhism. Songkar Stone Tower was announced as the sixth batch of national key cultural relics protection units by the State Council in 2006
Minzhulin monastery, also known as “Mindrolling monastery“, is one of the six great monasteries of Nyingma Pa of Tibetan Buddhism . It was built at the end of the 10th century. It covers an area of about 100,000 square meters. Minzhulin monastery is famous throughout Tibet for its emphasis on the study of Buddhist scriptures, astronomical calendar, calligraphy, rhetoric, and Tibetan medicine. The “Tibetan Calendar Chronology” is based on this. The walls of Minzhulin monastery built with rubble stones are also very famous in Tibet, and they are also of high value for studying Tibetan architectural art and style.
Zhongga Chode Monastery, also known as “Dzongka Chode Monastery“, located in Ridang Town of Lhunze County. It was a Bon religion monastery during Tubo period. And then converted to Kadam Sect monastery in 11th to 13th centuries, and finally it was converted to be a Gelug pa monastery after 15th century
Lalong Monastery, also known as “Lhalung Monastery“, with a long history and unique architectural style, has a very important position in the Kagyu pa of Tibetan Buddhism. It is located in Zari Township about 20 kilometers east of Lhozhag County. The monastery is in an open river valley platform with an altitude of 3700 meters.
Gongga Chode Monastery is located in Gongga County, beside the highway from Lhasa to Gongga Airport. It is one of the well-known monasteries of Sakya pa, was founded in 1464 AD
Dajielin Monastery, also known as “Chodegon Monastery” OR “Upper Chode Monastery“, is located in Chodegon Village in south of Nedong District. It was built in the 11th century and belongs to Gelug pa, and it was originally residence of the great translator Relo Zeva. During the period of 13th Dalai Lama, the expansion was carried out and it became the scale as it is now. Thangkar unfolding Ritual is held on the 25th day of the 5th month of Tibetan calendar every year
Samding monastery is located on the top of a steep mountain in the southwest of Yamdrok lake. It belongs to the Shangpa Kagyu of Kagyu pa of Tibetan Buddhism. It is an ancient Tibetan Buddhist monastery with history of more than 300 years.
Yala Xiangbu Snow Mountain, 6836 meters above sea level, is covered with snow all year round. It is in southern part ofNedong district and connecting to Lhunze County. According to legend that its mountain god resembles a fierce yak. It is the first of the four great sacred mountains in Tibet, representing “yak totem”. It is also main water source of Yalong River. Padmasambhava once practiced in this mountain. It is one of the three monastic places in the period of Trisong Detsen. On its east side, Gonpori Mountain is 4,472 meters above sea level, which is said that the legend of monkeys turning into humans took place here.
Puma Yumtso Lake is located in Nagarze County, with an altitude of 5,010 meters. It is in south of Yamdrok Lake, in the piedmont basin at northern foot of the Himalayas; the basin is surrounded by mountains; Its east and west are mainly alluvial plains, and its south is an ice-level plain with open terrain. The lake runs east-west, with a length of 32.5 kilometers from west to east, and a maximum width of 14 kilometers from north to south, an average width of 8.93 kilometers, covering an area of 290 square kilometers, and a shoreline of 94 kilometers. It is the highest lake in southern Tibet.
There are 3 small stone islands in the northeast of the lake, with a height difference of 26.0-114.0 meters, and an area of 0.12, 0.32 and 0.95 square kilometers respectively. The lake area has a semi-arid climate in the mountainous shrub grassland of southern Tibet. The annual precipitation is about 300 mm. The lakeside water grass is more lush. The lake water mainly relies on precipitation and runoff from melted ice and snow. There are 6 large rivers that enter the lake, of which Jiaqu is the largest on the west bank, and the ice and snow meltwater runoff is abundant.noff is abundant.
Geography and climate
Shannan City covers an area of 79,700 square kilometers, accounting for about 1/15 of the total area of Tibet Autonomous Region. It is a typical valley in southern Tibet. The terrain gradually decreases from west to east, with an average elevation of about 3,700 meters.
There are many snow-capped mountains and glaciers in Shannan City. There are more than 10 snow-capped mountains above 6000 meters above sea level. Five of them are open to climbing, which are all in three counties of Cona County, Nagarze County, and Lhozhag County, with an average elevation of nearly 7000 meters and a maximum of 7554 meters. In addition, there are Yala Xiangbu Snow Mountain and Wodgong Snow Mountain in Nedong and Sangri County, with an average altitude of more than 6000 meters, and glaciers remain indestructible all year round.
Rivers in Shannan City are dense, with 41 large and small rivers. The city’s largest river — Yarlung Tsangbo River, forms a 302 kilometers wide area. The widest part is 7 kilometers, which nourishes 10,000 acres of artificial forests along the river. Yarlung Tsangbo River passes through Shannan City from west to east, and its tributaries flow along the extension area of lower part of Shannan City into and out of country, which was renamed the Brahmaputra River by India. It provides a continuous source of sufficient water for this area, and also makes the land more fertile. Its valleys have better pastures and dense forests.
The average annual rainfall in Shannan City is less than 450 mm, and rainy season is mostly from June to September. The annual sunshine time in the whole region is 2600-3300 hours. The lowest annual average temperature is 6°C and the highest is 8.8°C; the highest temperature is 31°C (Gyaca County), and the lowest temperature is minus 37°C (Cona County). The average annual wind speed is about 3 meters per second, and the maximum wind speed is 17 meters per second. The wind period is mainly from December to March of the following year.
Population and ethnicity
As of 2019, the population of Shannan City was 382,610, of which the Tibetan population accounted for 80.06%; the Han population accounted for 4.8%; other ethnic minorities include Hui, Monba, Luoba, Tu, Dongxiang, Miao, Manchu, and Tujia people
Shannan is one of birthplaces of ancient Tibetan civilization. According to legend, the combination of a god monkey and a Raksha girl gave birth to Tibetans.
About 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, Tibetan ancestors thrived in Yalong area. The ancestors lived in Yalong River Valley where birds and beasts were clustered and fruit and trees were overgrown.
After a long period of time, Tibetan ancestors gradually learned to make bows, arrows, stone tools and other tools, and learned to raise animals such as yaks and plant crops such as barley. Sodang, a piece of land in Sare Village near Zedang Town, is the first farmland in Tibet.
Around beginning of the 2nd century BC, people living in Yalong area gradually formed tribes. The leader of early Sibuye tribe and the first Tibet King – Nyatri Tsenpo unified yak tribe, established an alliance regime, and also established a hereditary Tsenpo System.
From 8th to 14th Tibet King of Tsenpo, six tribes including Dazi, Guizi, Yangzi, Chizi, Zimu Qiongjie, and Chizebengdu were successively built in Yalong River Basin. Among of which, Qonggyai was made as base of Yalong tribe.
The 8th Tsenpo organized people to build canals, channeled rivers into flat land, cultivated farmland, and made wooden plows
The 11th Tsenpo formulated unit of arable land and unit of measurement for the number of livestock.
In the period of 27th Tsenpo, Buddhism was introduced into Yalong River Valley, and scriptures and ritual instruments brought by India monks were enshrined in Yongbu Lakang Palace
Around 6th century, Yalong area entered “Slave Society”, and residents were able to smelt iron, copper, and silver, and make metal weapons.
In the period of 31st Tsenpo, Namri Songtsen continued to expand its territory, making Yalong tribe the most powerful tribe in Tibet.
In the middle of 7th century, 32nd Tsenpo Songtsen Gampo successively conquered Subi, Yangtong and other small tribes, unified Tibetan Plateau, established Tubo kingdom, and gradually moved political, economic and cultural center from Qonggyai to Lhasa.
In Tang Dynasty, the early period of Tubo kingdom, Tibet was divided into five “Ru” (later six Ru, adding Xiangxiongru), namely Wei Ru, Yo Ru, Ye Ru, La Ru, and Subi Ru. Today’s Shannan area was governed by Yo Ru
At the beginning of 8th century, Samye area in southern part of Shannan was one of locations of Tubo Tsenpo. The first monastery in Tibet, Samye Monastery, was established. Seven Tibetans were ordained as monks (ie, “Seven Satta Sambojjhanga”), which laid foundation for the spread of Buddhism in Tibet.
In 869 AD, a slave civilian uprising broke out. In Tibet, 11 local forces ruled by separatism were formed. After a long period of melee, Shannan area formed a local power based on King Jowo.
In 11th century, Marpa, Milarepa and other high rank lamas founded Kagyu pa in Shannan area
In 1156 AD, Pamu drupa (abbreviated as Pazhuo) was established
In 1240 AD, Mongolia sent troops into Tibet, and Tibet was brought under jurisdiction of Central Government of Yuan Dynasty, and ending the 400-year separatist situation in Tibet.
In 1268 AD, the Central Government of Yuan Dynasty classified Tibet as 13 Wanhu households. Shannan belongs to territories of Pazhu Wanhu, Asam Wanhu, Yangzhu Wanhu, Tangbuche Wanhu, and Chayu Wanhu. In the same year, Pazhuo was named Wanhu households by Yuan Dynasty, and by 5thking of His Holiness, he began to hold the position of state and buddhism by himself, and formally became ruling entity of the unity of state and buddhism
In 1642, with the support of Gushi Khan, the leader of Mongolian Heshuote Ministry, 5th Dalai Lama established local government of “Ganden Phozhang”. The 5th Dalai Lama granted Lagari the hereditary right to rule Lagari, making Lagari a semi-independent state from relative independence of Sakya regime and Pazhuo regime, accepting constraints of Gelug pa
In 1751 AD, during the reign of 7th Dalai, Kashag regime was established in accordance with decree of Emperor Qianlong of Qing Dynasty. There are two levels of institutions in Kashag, namely “Jiqiao” and “Zong”. Shannan Jiqiao administers more than 10 Zong, among which Nedong, Qonggyai, and Gongga were under the direct supervision of Minister office of Qing Dynasty in Tibet.
In 1912, Kashag regime established Loki in Shannan, based in Tsetang, governing 13 Zong
In 1952, Gyantse Division of Work Committee was established, and Shannan was under jurisdiction of Gyantse Division of Work Committee
In 1959, Shannan Commissioner’s Office was established.
In 1978, Shannan District Administrative Office was established
In 2016, Shannan Prefecture and Nedong County were abolished, and prefecture-level Shannan City was established; Nedong District was established as well, and the former administrative area of Nedong County was the administrative area of Nedong District.