A Photo Tour of Tibetan Culture

 
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Potala Palace is the highest ancient palace in the world, sitting 12,000 feet above sea level on top of Red Mountain in Lhasa city. The palace housed every single Dalai Lama from the middle of the 7th century until 1959 when the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India after the invasion of Tibet by the Chinese.  
Credit: treasuresthouhast/Flickr 
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Today, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is open to the public. Thousands of tourists and Tibetans on Buddhist pilgrimages visit the palace daily to view the stupa-tomb chapels where eight past Dalai Lamas are laid to rest.  
Credit: David Rothschild/Flickr 
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In central Lhasa, Barkhor Street is the devotional stroll of many believers of the Buddhist faith. It isn't rare to see pilgrims walking or even crawling the circumference of the street, as it encircles the historic Jokhang Temple. Walking clockwise, the pilgrims are known to carry prayer wheels and continue this tradition well into the night.  
Credit: kholkute/Flickr 
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Barkhor Street is also a busy marketplace where almost every type of souvenir is for sale. Prayer flags, wheels, and beads, sutras, and thangkas (scroll paintings) are among the religious objects up for purchase; though many cultural items can be bought as well, such as Tibetan knives, local food, and jewelry.  
Credit: Pete Ryan/National Geographic 
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The Samye Monastery in Dranang, Tibet, was the first temple built in the country. Construction started in 762 A.D., but today, the buildings are in different stages of renovation. Throughout the years, the temple has been repeatedly damaged during various wars and conflicts with rival countries.  
Credit: lylevincent/Flickr 
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Used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom, prayer flags can be seen scattered about the country. Meant to be spread by the wind to carry along good will, Tibetan Buddhists string the chromatic symbols of hope from lofty surfaces—poles, mountain peaks, or from house to house.  
Credit: watchsmart/Flickr 
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The five colors of the prayer flags represent the five elements that compose our bodies and the physical world—earth, water, fire, air, and space.  
Credit: starchristopherstar/Flickr 
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Meaning 'yogurt festival' in Tibetan, the Shoton Festival is Tibet's homage to the arts and rich culture of the country. Dramatic operas are performed in parks from morning until dusk every day. Tibetans bring their entire families to watch as they celebrate with a bowl of yogurt. Large markets are set up for shopping and competitions and performances take place all over the town streets, squares, and monasteries.  
Credit: jmhullot/Flickr 
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When it comes to adventure travel mixed with a rich cultural experience, Tibet is arguably at the top of the list of destinations. Set amidst the backdrop of the Himalayan Mountains, visitors can partake in a wide range of outdoor activities while experiencing breathtaking scenery, from lush rhododendron forests to glacier-capped peaks.  
Credit: kholkute/Flickr 
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Locals believe that spiritual merit is gained by circumnavigating Mt. Kailash—a single circuit wipes out a lifetime's worth of sin, and 108 circuits brings enlightenment.  
Credit: Win Initiative/Photodisc 
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Summer in Tibet is the perfect time to visit—the weather is cool, festivals and celebrations seem to be going on everywhere, and fields of wildflowers are in bloom.  
Credit: kholkute/Flickr 
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Yamdrok Lake is one of the three largest lakes in Tibet, stretching nearly 45 miles long. Locals believe that the lake is the physical transformation of a mythological goddess. Much like the mountains, Tibetans consider lakes to be sacred and the dwelling places of protective deities.  
Credit: kholkute,Flickr 
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Posted up on the top of the hill of Yarlung, Yumbu Lhakang is the castle-like palace built by the first Tibetan king. In the Tibetan language, 'lakang' means holy palace, and 'yumba' means female dear. Put together, it means 'the palace built on a doe's leg,' reflecting the shape of the hill it sits on.  
Credit: lylevincent/Flickr 
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The Yumbu Lhakang palace was eventually transformed into a temple by the fifth Dalai Lama.  
Credit: Image Source 
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Tibetan life still revolves around the yak; a major part of their culture for thousands of years.  
Credit: archer10 (Dennis)/Flickr 
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Not only are they used for transport, their dung is used to light fires, their hair used to weave clothing, blankets, or even boats, and locals eat their meat and drink their milk.  
Credit: starchristopherstar/Flickr 
 
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