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Lhasa Facts

Lhasa Facts

Written by Candice SongUpdated Aug. 2, 2023

Name: Lhasa (拉萨; lā sà (/la-sa/))
Meaning: "place of the gods"
Previous names: Rasa


  • It was originally the capital of the Tibetan Empire called the Bod Empire.
  • Political, economic, cultural and religious center of Tibet
  • Historic Tibetan buildings and cultural traditions are attractions.
  • Rugged Himalayan Scenery
Barkhor StreetTibetans in Barkhor Street

Main Attractions

Potala PalacePotala Palace on the Red Hill


The city was originally the capital of the Bod Empire that once stretched from India to Mongolia.

  • 618 Songtsan Gampo came to power over his small kingdom after the death of his father.
  • 637 Songtsan Gampo raised the first structures for his capital of Lhasa for his empire.
  • 763 Tibetan troops captured Chang'an (Xi'an).
  • 1642 The Fifth Dalai Lama made Lhasa the capital of his kingdom.
  • 1950 Communist troops captured the city.
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  • Significance of city: the historic center of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibet's largest city.
  • Nearby cities: Shannan (95 km/59 mi), Shigatse (245 km/152 mi)
  • Municipality terrain: The city sits in a Himalayan river basin and is surrounded by high mountain ranges.
  • Average altitude: 3,490 meters (11,450 feet)
  • Main rivers: Kyi River

Location Information

  • City location: 29.39N, 91.07E, in southwestern China
  • Lhasa's prefecture population: (2009) 1,100,000
  • Prefecture area: 30,000 sq km (11,583 sq mi)
  • Central city area: 544 km2 (210 sq mi)
  • Urban population: 250,000
  • City center: the Potala Palace (29.65N, 91.11E), in Chengguan District
Tibetan People is prayingTibetan People is Praying


  • Average highest temperature in July: 22.6 °C (72.7 °F)
  • Average lowest temperature in January: -9.0 °C (15.8 °F)
  • Semi-arid, high-altitude climate; the annual precipitation is 426 mm (16.8 in). The city is known for lots of sunshine and mild temperatures for such a high altitude. Oxygen levels are about 68% of that at sea level.


  • Lhasa Gonggar Airport; it is 68 miles from Lhasa.
  • Several highways
  • 1 railway station; connected with the rest of China via Qinghai-Tibet Railway
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