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Lhasa Facts

Written by Candice SongUpdated Dec. 10, 2020

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

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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