Tibet's Best-kept Secret
    2010-09-01 15:28:33     China Daily      Web Editor: zhaolixia
Nedong county, southeast of Lhasa, is an oasis of tranquility and home to the region's first palace as also its first village, as Qi Xiao discovers.

A distinct Tibetan-style brick house in Yarlung Suoka, the region's first village. [Photo: China Daily]

When the bus arrives at its final stop, only a handful of visitors can be seen and some are already trudging along the steep mountain path and halfway to their final destination, Yambulakang, the first-ever Tibetan palace.

Perched precariously on the top of Mount Tashitseri overlooking the Yarlung River valley, considered the place of origin of Tibetan civilization, the palace was built more than 2,000 years ago by Nyatri Tsenpo, literally "King on the Neck", the first Tibetan king.

Legend has it that, one day, a strange-looking young man descended on the valley. When the tribal leaders asked him where he had come from, he just kept pointing to the sky as he could not understand them. The chieftains decided he had been sent from heaven, hoisted him on their necks and crowned him Nyatri ("neck" in Tibetan) Tsenpo ("king").

Historians later said Nyatri Tsenpo was actually from Bomi county in southeastern Tibet.
For those looking for magnificence, the first impression of this palace can be quite disappointing. One is apt to wonder how this three-story structure could have been home to Tibetan kings and later also served as the summer palace for the mighty Songtsen Gampo and his wife Princess Wencheng.

A local peddler, who declines to reveal his name, becomes philosophical as he ponders this question.

"Everybody jostles to get into the Potala Palace, which is perfectly understandable given its grandeur and status," he says. "But the Potala, and various later palaces for that matter, are in fact just a series of Yambulakangs."

Visitors will quickly recognize Yambulakang's strategic location - it is easy to defend and well-positioned to withstand the frequent mudslides that used to plague the Yarlung River valley - and marvel at the wisdom of Nyatri Tsenpo. No wonder he was able to unite the warring tribes in this area and become king.

Most will also probably end their trip here. It is natural that they will look up at the palace where kings used to live, rather than down.

But it is right at the foot of the mountain atop which Yambulakang sits, on the other side of the regular tourist route, that Tibet's first agricultural plot and its first village Yarlung Suoka lie.

To the south of the village, right beside the asphalt road, two cows graze nonchalantly. On one side of it is a stone tablet covered in rags and bearing an inscription in Tibetan, Chinese and English attesting to its historical value.

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