Namri Songtsan sent troops into the Gyiqoi River Valley
A very primitive record of the ancient history of Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region exists dating from around the 1st century. Forefathers of the Tibetan race passed down segments of history orally. During the Tubo Kingdom, historians began to write them into their works.
Legend has it that the Tibet Plateau was dotted with various tribal clans, which are known as the "12 small states" or "40 small states" in Tibetan history books. According to these books, where these small states contained small towns that became formidable tribes via repeated wars and ensuing peace. Of these large tribes, the most powerful ones included the Yarlung Tribe in the Shannan River Valley, the Zhangzhung Regime in Ngari, and the Supi Tribe north of the Yarlung Zangbo River. At that time, the Lhasa River Valley was known as the "Gyiqoiko," with present-day Lhasa called "Gyixoiwotang" (meaning fertile land downstream from the Gyiqoi River).
The Gyiqoi River Valley was then ruled by two princes: Dagyiwo and Chibangsum of the Supi Tribe. In the early 7th century, Nangri Songtsan, leader of the Yarlung Tribe, sent his troops northward, crossing the Yarlung Zangbo River. With the coordination of the Nang clans under the rule of Chibangsum, they seized Chibangsum to rule the whole of the Gyiqoi (Lhasa) River Valley. Namrisum had his headquarters set up at Gyiamargang in Maizhokunggar, and built several palaces built in the narrow gully, which ran from south to north. Songtsan Gambo, his son and later king of the Tubo Kingdom, was born in the Qamba Mingcholing Palace at Gyiamargang.
King Songtsan Gambo moved his capital to Gyixoiwotang
Internal fighting broke out within the Yarlung Tribe when Songtsan Gambo was 13 years old. His father was poisoned to death, and the regime was about to fall. Songtsan Gambo succeeded as the king, and fought and annihilated the rebels. He also conquered the Dagbo, Gongbo, Nangbo, and Supi tribes, thus unifying the Tibetan plateau and founding the Tubo Kingdom, with the capital set up in Gyiqoiwotang (present-day Lhasa). It was at that time he was donned "Songtsan Gambo," meaning "strong-minded king."
Legend has it that when Songtsan Gambo reached Gyixoiwotang during his expedition, as it was summer, he took off his military uniform and took a dip in the rippling Gyiqoi River. He was delighted to see the crystal clear water and emerald mountains, including the Red and Tie Hills surrounding the area, and decided this was the best place to launch his strategy of controlling all of Tibet.
Indeed, this was a strategically advantageous area, with Qinghai in the north, Shannan in the south, Zhangzhung in the west, and Dorkang in the east. It was richly endowed with natural resources and was much, much better than Yarlung. Thus the decision of moving the capital to Gyiqoiwotang was made.
In 633, Songtsan Gambo led his men from Maizhokunggar westward to Gyiqoiwotang. Songtsan Gambo examined the desolate plain and decided to intercept the northern section of the Gyiqoi River and divert the water in the direction of Shannan. The area around the Red Hill became lush, and Songtsan Gambo built palaces, monasteries, military barracks, and civilian housing there. A spectacular stone palace, the predecessor of the Potala Palace, was built on the top of the Red Hill.
Guests of the Feast of Scholars described the palace in this way: "Three walls were built around the Red Hill. Inside the walls were pillboxes, totaling 999 in number. At the summit of Red Hill was built a palace, thus bringing the total number of palaces up to 1,000. These palaces were adorned with gold, silver, pearls, and tassels as majestic as the Heavenly Palace itself."
The Holy City fell with the fall of Tubo Kingdom
After 200 years, the Tubo Kingdom experienced increasing internal conflict. Various royal families, monks, lay officials, Buddhist forces, and anti-Buddhist forces were locked in a life-and-death struggle. When the anti-Buddhist forces managed to kill Chanbo Zhangya (who had been in charge of monks) and later Tubo King Chiribajun, Darma Wodongtsan, Chiribajun's brother, came to the throne.
Darma Wodongtsan began his term by banning Buddhism in Tubo. Even before this, Darma Wodongtsan had banned Buddhism in Lhasa. The Jokhang Monastery was closed, statues of Sakyamuni were buried underground, and lamas with the monastery were forced to resume their secular lives and were ordered to either slaughter cows and sheep, or go hunting in the mountains. This Tubo King, historically known as Lang Darma, was in power for five years, until Lama Lhalung Begyi Dorje killed him.
Upon Lang Darma's death, his two sons Wesum and Yundain became locked in a fight for power. Wesum was the son of his father's second wife, and Yundain the son of his father's first wife. Yundain controlled Lhasa and Wesum Shannan. They fought for many years, touching off a mass revolt and leading to the fall of the Tubo Kingdom. Lhasa, as the capital of the Tubo Kingdom, declined along with the Tubo Kingdom. The Potala Palace, which had been damaged by a thunderbolt during the period of Trisong Detsan, was razed to the ground during the war.
Lhasa Experiencing Changes From Separation to the Sagya Period
Tibet separated from China beginning in the mid-9th century, a separation that lasted for 400 years before ending in the mid-13th century, when the religious circle headed by the Sagya Sect of Tibetan Buddhism pledged allegiance to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). From then on, Tibet has been a part of Chinese territory. The Sagya regime was headquartered in Sagya, the Pagmo Zhuba regime in Nedong of Shannan, and the Tsangpa Desi regime in Xigaze. Although 800 years would pass before Lhasa would again become the center of power in Tibet, it remained the oldest holy city of the region
After some 100 years, Tibetan Buddhism revived in the late 9th century and the early 10th century. Monastic rules spread from the Guge Kingdom in Ngari (Tibet) and Dandi (Qinghai Province in Northwest China) to U-Tsang. As a result, Lhasa and its surrounding area again saw the flourishing of Buddhism. In Tibetan history, this is known as the "Revival of Tibetan Buddhism." For a prolonged period of time thereafter, Lhasa was under the rule of the Tsapa Wan Hu (10,000-household) Office.
The Office heads won the official title of situ from the Yuan court and were put in charge of Lhasa and the Lhasa River Valley. They exercised effective management over Lhasa and organized efforts to reinforce river dams, dredge waterways, build civilian housing, renovate the Barkor Street, repair the Jokhang and Ramoche Monasteries, protect buildings on the Potala Palace Ruins, manage various monasteries and Buddhist activities, organize lectures on Buddhist doctrines, build the Tantric School, compile history books, and publish books on Buddhism.
People of later generations erected the statue of Lhagyi Gowaboin, one of the Wan Hu (10,000-household) Office heads, in the Jokhang Monastery to honor what he had done for the city.
Buddhism boomed in Lhasa during that period. Monasteries built included the Sangpo, Jormolung, Gedong, Curpu, Chigung, Daglung, and Zho Monasteries. Although these monasteries were all built in areas around Lhasa, Lhasa remained the mecca for Buddhists.
Various religious sects fought for control of Lhasa
The decline of the Pagmo Zhuba regime, which had previously ruled Tibet, around the 16th century made way for the rise of the Runbungba and Desi Tsangba regimes in the Xigaze area. Desi Tsangba wiped out the Nyuwozong clan that supported the Gelug Sect, allowing the Gyixoi Diba regime, another powerful supporter of the Gelug Sect, to rise in the lower reaches of the Lhasa River.
The Gyixoi Diba regime exercised jurisdiction over the Lhasa River Valley extending from Quxui to Maizhokunggar. Diba rulers of various generations built roads and bridges, reinforced river dams, and built houses and palaces. Earlier, Tangdong Gyibo had erected an iron cable bridge over the Lhasa River, making it possible for Lhasa to expand its contacts with the outside world. However, the Desi Tsangba (King Tsangba) who was based in Xigaze did his best to suppress the Gelug Sect, then on the rise. Beginning with the 17th century, the Lhasa area and the Xigaze area were locked in a fight for control of Lhasa. The Lhasans, used to peace, suffered.
Prime time of the Gandain Phodrang Regime
The 17th and 18th centuries saw the reigns of the 5th through 8th Dalai Lamas. During this period, Lhasa enjoyed a relatively stable political situation, social stability, and rapid urban development. Also during this period, however, Lhasa reeled under the invasion of the Jungars, based in Xinjiang (autonomous region in Northwest China) in 1717, and the war between the Lhasa and Xigaze areas in 1727. Both wars were suppressed by troops sent by the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) Government
From 1727 to 1788, with the exception of short-lived riots in 1750 when Prince Zholmut Namozhaleg was killed, the Lhasans lived in peace and stability. Large numbers of chic residences for nobility, residence monasteries for the Living Buddhas, government offices, stores, workshops, teahouses, restaurants, and civilian homes were built. Downtown Lhasa spread in four directions with the Jokhang Monastery at the center, reaching the Mosque in the east, the Three-Master Monastery in the south, the Glazed Bridge in the west, and the Ramoche Monastery in the north, a pattern that is roughly the same as that of today. During the reign of Qing Emperor Jiaqing (1796-1821), Lhasa had a population of 30,000, and some 5,000 households.
In 1727, during the reign of Qing Emperor Yongzhen, the Central Government stationed High Commissioners in Tibet. The first High Commissioner's Office was located at Congsaikang in Lhasa. In the late 18th century, a new High Commissioner's Office was built to the west of Norbu Leuling. Lhasa residents called it "Dorsengge" (stone lion). The Qing court also stationed troops in Lhasa, with the barracks located in Zhaxi, the northern suburbs of Lhasa.
When the 7th Dalai Lama died in 1757, Qing Emperor Qianlong introduced the system of prince regents in Tibet. This meant that a Grand Living Buddha was appointed the Prince Regent to act as the Dalai Lama between the time when the Dalai Lama passed away and when a new Dalai Lama came to power. The Living Buddha Demo, the Living Buddha Cemoiling, the Living Buddha Razheng, and the Living Buddha Gongdeling all acted as Prince Regents, and built majestic ancestral temples in Lhasa. The same period of time also saw the construction of residences for the Dalai Lamas, Grand Living Buddhas, and aristocrats.
Business people from other parts of Tibet, China's hinterland, Bhutan, Nepal, and India gathered in Lhasa for business purposes. Congsaikang, Tibenkang, Gyibokang, Wangdui Xingar, and Barkor Street became the five major markets in Lhasa. While the Muslims gathered in Hebailing in eastern Lhasa, working as butchers and flour grinders, people of the Han ethnic group lived in southern Lhasa, growing vegetables and making wine. These 200 years saw the fourth construction boom in Lhasa. It was also the peak of the Gandain Phodrang Regime.