Sitting at an elevation of 3,900m, Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet and an important trading and administrative centre. Shigatse is the location of the huge Tashilunpo Monastery, the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama, second in authority to the Dalai Lama in the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism (the sect which controlled Tibet from the 16th century until the Communist takeover in the 1940s). Successive Panchen Lamas form a tulku reincarnation lineage, and are said to be the incarnations of Amitabha Buddha. Who the true present (11th) incarnation of the Panchen Lama is remains a matter of great controversy.
The People’s Republic of China asserts it is Gyancain Norbu (Qoigyijabu), whilst the Tibetan Government in Exile maintains it is Gdahun Choeki Nyima, whom they allege to be missing with his family since 1995.
The Tashilunpo is a huge monastic compound of golden-roofed venerable buildings and cobbled lanes, which dates from 1447 when founded by Gendren Drup, the first Dalai Lama. The gold and silver funeral chorten of the fourth Panchen Lama was the only chorten in the monastery to escape destruction during the Cultural Revolution. The larger, jewelled chorten nearby holds the remains of the 10th Panchen Lama who died in 1989. In the Chapel of Jampa is a 26m high golden image of Jampa, the future Buddha. Made in 1914, it took almost a 1,000 artisans almost 4 years to complete.
Neatly dividing China into north and south, the 6340km-long Yangtze River is the third longest river in the world, winding ...