Yumbulagang, about 11 km southwest of Tsetang, was built by the first Tibetan king, Nyatri Tsenpo, in the 2nd century AD , and was the first palace in Tibet. It became Songtsen Gampo and Princess Wencheng’s summer palace before Songtsen Gampo moved the capital to Lhasa. The palace was later transformed into a Gelugpa monastery during the time of the fifth Dalai Lama.
Princess Wencheng was Songtsen Gampo’s second concubine who was a niece of the Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty. She was married off to Tibet in a political marriage to keep peaceful relations between the Tang Dynasty and Tibet.
Small in scale, the three-storied monastery consists of towers, chapels, and halls. The monastery walls are painted with colorful murals . Sculptures of Nyatri Tsenpo, Songtsen Gampo, and his ministers and officials in traditional Tibetan dresses are enshrined there. Locals climb to the monastery to light butter lights in the hope that this practice will bring them good luck.
The views from the monastery over the Yarlung valley are great: fields, Tibetan villages, and mountains extending to the horizon.
Visiting the Monastery
The monastery was built on a mountain summit. You can climb up to it in about 20 minutes, or ride a horse up for 35 yuan. Locals with their horses will rush up to you offering horse ride services as soon as you arrive at the bottom of the mountain where the monastery is located. The road up the mountain is half cement step road and half dirt road. It is steep, so walk slowly if you choose to climb. You may feel a bit out of breath (especially because of the altitude) during your climb. If so, take it easy, and take a breath.
There is a circuit with prayer wheels surrounding the monastery building. Walk clockwise along it to respect the local customs.
One hour is enough to see the monastery. The way down is much easier. It you are too ti red to walk down, ride a horse for 10 yuan.
Vendors sells local products such as rings, prayer wheels , etc. at the road side at the bottom of the monastery. If you are going to buy something, remember to haggle hard for a good price.
How to Get There
If you travel with an agency, they will arrange the transportation for you.
A round trip by taxi from Tsetang town costs about 60 yuan (9 USD). If your energy allows, you can cycle there. The road conditions are good : paved cement road.
Remember to tell your driver how long your visit will be if you take a taxi or truck if you want him to wait for you (usually 1– 2 hours are enough).
There are buses waiting at Yumbu Lakang village, a village at the mountain bottom to take travelers back.