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Tibetan Architecture

Tibetan architecture with its unique content and formation has met the material and spiritual needs of local people, which can be classified into three groups, namely, temples, palaces, and housing.

Among them, monasteries are one of the most important buildings in Tibet. Influenced by the surrounding culture, and rooted in the history, culture, and geography of Tibet, the architecture of Tibetan monasteries is unique.

The world-famous Potala Palace is a masterpiece of Tibetan architecture and art. When you visit the Potala Palace, you will not only see the essence of Tibetan monasteries, but also feel the majestic architecture of the palace up close.

There is also a wide variety of residential buildings that are closely related to Tibetan life. In different parts of Tibet, there are different characteristics of Tibetan folk houses.

The charm of Tibetan architecture is worth observing and appreciating during your travels in Tibet. Here we will introduce you to some Tibetan architecture that will help you better understand what you are seeing during your trip.

What are the features of Tibetan Architecture?

Tibetan architecture is deeply influenced by Tibetan Buddhism and Indian, Nepalese and Tang dynasty Han architectural styles, combined with the special geographic environment and temperature characteristics, has formed a unique style.

One feature of Tibetan architecture is that many houses and monasteries are built facing south and get plenty of sunlight.

The color of the exterior walls of Tibetan buildings is also very distinctive. The walls of monasteries and other religious buildings are usually yellow or red, while folk houses are usually white.

Tibetan folk houses usually have two or three floors, with the lower floor being where the animals are kept and the upper floor being where the Tibetans live. The roofs of Tibetan houses are usually flat and have prayer flags on them.

Of course, the style and color of houses vary somewhat from region to region in Tibet; for example, in the Sakya region, some monasteries and houses are white, red, and dark gray.

More highlights of Tibetan architecture need to be discovered on your own tour.

What are the architectural styles of Tibetan monasteries?

Tibetan people sincerely believe in Tibetan Buddhism and many families have their children become monks (Lamas) at a very young age. Religious faith is always the first and most important thing for them so that temples have earned a noble social status. 

Tibetan monastery architectures are the places where local people hold religious activities and play an important role in their daily life.

The most famous Tibetan monasteries include but not limited to Jokhang Monastery, Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery in Lhasa, Tashihunpo Monastery in Shigatse and Palcho Choke Monastery in Gyantse, etc. Those temples have absorbed the essence of architecture and arts and become precious treasures in Tibet.

Most of the monasteries were built against the mountains, therefore all buildings rise and lower with the terrain of the hills but in good order, forming a magnificent building complex.

Based on Tibetan architectural layout, ancient architects also adopted the Chinese roofs. Then architectures featuring in Chinese-Tibetan style took initial shape, some of which can be as tall as 9 storeys.

What are the typical Tibetan folk houses like?

Affected by the different geographical environments and climatic conditions, Tibetan houses are not always the same.

In northern Tibet, local Tibetans lead a nomadic life and tents are common to see. And it’s more likely to encounter people live in houses made of wooden in the Kangba area of eastern Tibet.

However, dwellings in central Tibet like Lhasa, Shigatse, and Shannan turn out to be two-storey residential buildings made of brick and wood with a flat roof or a sloping roof.

Regardless of the differences in specific architectural features, Tibetan folk houses have some decorative features in common.

Colorful valances are hung around windows and doors. Reds, yellows, blues, and whites are interlacing with each other. Brilliant colors are also painted on eaves. Every item around demonstrates Tibetan people’s aesthetic sentiment thoroughly.

The best place to experience Tibetan folk life is the Barkhor Street. Rows upon rows of Tibetan-style shops and blocks upon blocks of Tibetan traditional architecture will definitely leave an unforgettable impression on you.

What are the stone houses in Tibet?

The stone house is a representative type of folk houses in Tibet. In addition to nomadic areas in northern Tibet, most of the traditional dwellings are based on stone and wood architecture in Tibet.

In addition to TAR, in western Sichuan, southern Gansu, Qinghai Province, and other Tibetan areas, Tibetan stone houses can also be seen. In particular, along the Sichuan-Tibet highway, there are featured blockhouses of Jiarong Tibetan in Jiaju Tibetan village in Danba County at west Sichuan.

What are the architectural features of Tibetan palace buildings?

Tibetan Palace buildings are the places where Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama handle affairs and are divided into winter palace and summer palace.

Those palaces and Buddha hall in temples belong to the highest level and have high similarity in eaves’ decoration. However, the walls of palaces are painted in yellow and white rather than red.

Winter palace for Panchen Lamas is based in Thashihunpo Monastery at Shigatse. Deqianlingka and Gongdelingka in the outskirt are their summer palaces. As for Dalai Lamas, it refers to Potala Palace as the winter palace and Norbulingka in the western suburb as the summer palace.

Built in the times of King Songzan Gambo, Potala Palace in Lhasa has long been regarded as a symbol of Tibetan architectural art and cultural prosperity.

Most Read Articles about Tibetan Architecture

Let's see what the most interesting topics about Tibetan architecture are! Here are four of the most-read articles through which you will not only learn about the features of Tibetan architecture, but you will also gain some insight into unique Tibetan architecture such as Tibetan monasteries and Tibetan stone houses. When you travel to Tibet, you can better appreciate the uniqueness of Tibetan architecture with the information we shared below.

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