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Founded in 1447, Shigatse is the second largest city and retains high repute as the seat of the Panchen Lama, the second highest ranked Lama after the Dalai Lama in the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The city’s origins can be traced back even earlier to the middle of the 13th century, when Yuan Dynasty officials instituted a mass migration to the area and moved the region’s political center to the site of modern day Shigatse. However, it wasn’t until the middle of the 15th century, when Gendun Drup, the first Dalai Lama, directed the building of Tashilhunpo Monastery at the foothills of Nima Mountain near the western end of Shigatse, that the city’s religious roots were planted. These days, the city itself houses a variety of timeless cultural relics and enduring examples of classic Tibetan architecture, but it is mainly due to the Tashilhunpo Monastery that Shigatse continues to see countless throngs of migratory Buddhist adherents each year. The modern city is divided into two main sections: the small Tibetan old town which has been the seat of the Panchen Lama since the Mongol sponsorship of the Gelugpa order, and a rapidly expanding modern Chinese city filled with wide boulevards and modern amenities. Located approximately 273 kilometers west of Lhasa, Shigatse may be rapidly modernizing, but pockets of the city retain the nostalgic aura of old Tibet, and the city itself serves as the perfect springboard into Tibet’s more far-flung regions.

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