Shigatse, also named Xigatse, means 'the fertile land'. Covering an area of over 3875 squarekilometers (about 1496 square miles), this frontier city is the second largest in Tibet. It sits inthe plain at the confluence of the Yarlong Tsangpo and Nyangchu Rivers, where Tibet's mostfertile land is to be found. With some thirteen ethnic groups including Tibetan, Hui and Man,Shigatse is a typical living area for minority nationalities. The population of Shigatse City is98,700 about 97% of which are Tibetan. Shigatse has a history going back more than 600years and it is this ancient holy city that is the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama, one of thespiritual leaders in Tibet. The city is also the cultural, economic and political center of Tibet.
Before the 1950s, Shigatse remained in a primitive state in terms of its economy and itspeople's lifestyle. Following reformation and the opening up to the modern world, a series ofhighways were built up such as the No.318 National Highway and the China-Nepal Highway.These connect Shigatse with the outside world while opening up the outside world to people inShigatse. Nowadays, Shigatse is an important Tibetan communication hub and an air ofmodernization pervades the area. New industries including mechanics, chemicals and foodproduction thrive here. Meanwhile, the traditional handcrafts have been encouraged andexpanded. Products such as Tibetan knives as well as items of silver and gold are sought afterthroughout China and are exported abroad.
Shigatse is one of the world's highest cities with beautiful high plateau scenery. It is also a hotspot for Chinese tourism. The average elevation here is in a range of 3840 meters (about12598.4 feet) - 4464 meters (about 14645.7 feet), which endows cool and even cold weatherto the area. In the high plateau, the climate is not very pleasant due to the frequent wind anddry atmosphere. However, it is not bad a place for summering. Its long history gives this city astrong cultural heritage, especially in respect of Buddhism. The approximately 600 year-oldmajestic Tashilhunpo Monastery has a magnificent architectural style with a golden roof andresplendent buildings. Dozens of monasteries belonging to different sects enhance theatmosphere of Buddhism. Various grand festivals like Buddha Unveiling Festival in themonasteries each year give people a chance to admire the huge portraits of three Buddhas.
Shigatse is of great importance for its location in this area. It is 300 kilometers (about 186miles) away from the world's highest peak Mt. Everest, 150 kilometers (about 93 miles) awayfrom the Sakya Monastery and also on the only path to Tibet's holy lakes. Thus Shigatse isquite an important base for people heading for those places. In the city, hotels and motels ofdifferent classifications satisfy tourists' needs. Although the accommodation in this remotearea cannot be compared with those in modern cities, they are still important and plentiful. Interms of transportation, there are tourist buses heading for the nearby venues such asLhasa, Zhangmu and Nakchu. Public amenities such as the post office and banks do much tofacilitate travel in Tibet.