Lying at the bank of Laqu river, Gyantse is the third largest city of Tibet. Gyantse witnessed its prosperity as a trade transit with India in the past. In the 20th century, it became a battle field when the British colonists invaded Tibet.
Southwest of Shigatse, in the town of Gyantse, is the Pelkor Chode Monastery, a huge temple with a unique history and a wetitleh of Buddhist art. The Monastery was founded in 1418. Originally the compund housed approximately 15 different monastaries, made up of three different sects in a rare instance of tolerance amongst the Tibetan orders of Buddhism. Today, however, the monastery compound is much emptier and is maintained by monks of the Gelugpa sect alone.
Like mountains, lakes are considered sacrosanct by the Tibetan people, the principle being that they are the dwelling places of protective deities and therefore invested with special spiritual powers. For instance, Lhamo La-tso (Oracle) Lake is thought to be divinatory; everyone from the Dalai Lama to the local villagers makes pilgrimages there.
Yamdrok Lake is one of four such holy lakes, the others being Lhamo La-tso (mentioned above), Namtso and Manasarovar. It is revered as a talisman and is said to be part of the life-spirit of the Tibetan nation. The largest lake in southern Tibet, it is said that if its waters dry, Tibet will no longer be habitable. The lake has nine islands, of which one houses the famous Samding Monastery. This monastery is interesting, as it is the only Tibetan monastery to be headed by a female re-incarnation. Since it is not a nunnery, its female abbot heads a community of about thirty monks.
Today, both pilgrims and tourists can be seen walking along the lake's perimeter, enjoying the diversified fauna and flora, admiring the snow-capped mountains in the distance and visiting the villages scattered along its shores. One of the most newly popular pastimes for Tibetans is fishing, new because Tibetans are traditionally not allowed to eat fish.