Architecture in Tibet

Architecture in Tibet contains Chinese and Indian influences, and reflects a deeply Buddhist approach. The Buddhist Prayer wheel, along with two deer or dragons, can be seen on nearly every Gompa in Tibet. The design of the Tibetan Chörtens can vary, from roundish walls in Kham to squarish, four-sided walls in Ladakh.

The most unusual feature of Tibetan architecture is that many of the houses and monasteries are built on elevated, sunny sites facing the south, and are often made out a mixture of rocks, wood, cement and earth. Little fuel is available for heat or lighting, so flat roofs are built to conserve heat, and multiple windows are constructed to let in sunlight. Walls are usually sloped inwards at 10 degrees as a precaution against frequent earthquakes in the mountainous area.

World Heritage Site

Standing at 117 meters in height and 360 meters in width, the Potala Palace, designated as a World Heritage Site in 1994 and extended to include to include the Norbulingka area in 2001, is considered a most important example of Tibetan architecture. [cite web
title=Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa
] Formerly the residence of the Dalai Lama, it contains over a thousand rooms within thirteen stories, and houses portraits of the past Dalai Lamas and statues of the Buddha. It is divided into the outer White Palace, which serves as the administrative quarters, and the inner Red Quarters, which houses the assembly hall of the Lamas, chapels, 10,000 shrines and a vast library of Buddhist scriptures.

Traditional architecture

Traditional Kham architecture is seen in most dwellings in Kangding. Although the area has been previously heavily logged, wood is imported and used abundantly for housing. Horizontal timber beams support the roof which in turn are supported by wooden columns. The interior of houses are usually paneled with wood and the cabinetry is ornately decorated. In Ganzi, Kham, surrounded by forests, is know for its beautiful wooden houses built in a range of styles and lavishly decorated with wooden ornamentation. Although various materials are used in the well-build houses, it is the skillful carpentry that is striking. Khan houses tend to be spacious and fit in well with their environment. Their floors and ceilings are wooden as they are throughout in Kangding. Carpentry is a skill that is passed down from father to son and there appear to be plenty of carpenters. However a threat to the traditional Tibetan carpentry is increasing use of concrete strutures. Some consider the increased use of concrete as a deliberate infiltration of the Chinese influence into Tibet. In Gaba Township, where there are few Chinese, almost all the structures are traditional. [cite web
author=Pamela Logan
title=Wooden Architecture in Ganzi

Religious architecture

China's Cultural Revolution resulted in the deterioration or loss of Buddhist monasteries, both by intentional destruction or through lack of protection and maintenance. Starting in the 1980s, Tibetans have begun to restore those monasteries that survived. This has become an international effort. Experts are teaching the Tibetans how to restore the building and save the remaining monasteries on the eastern plateau. [cite web
author=Pamela Logan
title=Conserving Tibetan Art and Architecture

Tashilhunpo Monastery shows the influence of Mongol architecture. Changzhug monastery is one of the oldest in Tibet, said to have been first built in the 7th century during the reign of King Songsten Gampo (605?-650 CE). Jokhang was also originally built under Songsten Gampo. Tsurphu Monastery was founded by the first Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa (1110-1193) in 1159, after he visited the site and laid the foundation for an establishment of a seat there by making offerings to the local protectors, dharmapala and genius loci. [cite web
title=Tsurphu Monastery - The Main Seat Of The Karmapa
publisher=Karmapa's Office of Administration
] In 1189 he revisited the site and founded his main seat there. The monastery grew to hold 1000 monks. Tsozong Gongba Monastery is a small shrine built around 14the century A.D. Palcho Monastery was founded in 1418 and known for its kumbum which has 108 chapels on its four floors. Chokorgyel Monastery, founded in 1509 by Gendun Gyatso, 2nd Dalai Lama once housed 500 monks but was completely destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.

Ramoche Temple is an important temple in Lhasa. The original building complex was strongly influenced by Tang Dynasty architectural style as it was first built by Han Chinese architects in the middle of the 7th century. Princess Wencheng took charge of this project and ordered the temple be erected facing east to show her homesickness.

Monasteries such as the Kumbum Monastery continue to be affected by Chinese politics. Simbiling Monastery was completely flattened in 1967, although it has to some degree been restored. See List of Tibetan monasteries.

ee also

*Tibetan culture


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