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Once upon a time, Gyantse was one of Tibet’s most important and powerful towns, but since 1952, its population has barely exceeded 8000. Today, it is a deeply historical place with great national and religious significance, if only minor administrative relevance. The city is located in the Nyang River Valley on an offshoot of the Friendship Highway, which connects Kathmandu in Nepal to several large cities in Tibet. Gyantse is known for two major landmarks: the Gyantse Dzong, a restored fort; and the Kumbum Stupa, a magnificent six-storied landmark containing over seventy-five temples.
First constructed in 1390, it is believed that the Gyantse Dzong was created to protect the southernmost approach to the Tsangpo Valley. It remains the best-preserved Dzong in Tibet, drawing crowds of visitors and locals alike. Today, it has been restored after centuries of attacks and destruction, including the 1967 Cultural Revolution. There is a small museum near the fortress, well worth a look.
Besides the Dzong, Gyantse is known for the Kumbum Stupa, an important religious centre dedicated to promoting Buddhist teachings and ideals, providing technical and moral assistance to Buddhists seeking enlightenment. An impressive six-story structure containing seventy-seven different temples and endless images of Buddhist deities, the stupa was built in 1427 and has survived the centuries virtually unscathed.
Gyantse is a city that has, for the most part, remained unchanged for centuries. It is a place of immense cultural offerings and where spirituality can be found in abundance.