Shannan Prefecture is located between 9014'E-9422'E and 2708''N-2497"N, at the lower reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River south of the Kangdese Mountains – called the Nyainqentanglha Mountains on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. It is bounded by Lhasa. Shannan Prefecture occupies one-fifteenth of the total land area of the Tibet Autonomous Region. It includes 12 counties, four of which are in border areas. Shannan's topography is typical of the southern Tibetan valley, with a terrain gradually declining from west to east and at an average elevation of about 3,700 meters. Shannan enjoys a temperate and dry climate, with an average annual rainfall of less than 450 millimeters. The rainy season is concentrated between June and September. Shannan has many kinds of flora and fauna. It bounds in qingke barley wheat, broad beans, peas, corn and buckwheat, making it one of the major grain and edible oil producing regions in Tibet. The region is rich in vegetables and fruits, and is enriched with wild plant resources. There are several hundred medicinal plants. Its famous medicinal herbs include sinensis, fritillaries thun-bergli, and root of red salvia. Shannan has many mineral resources including chromium, gold, copper, iron, Zinc, manganese, as well as jade and marble. The reserve of the chromium has been verified at 5 million tons, accounting for 45% of the country's total, therefore it boasts the biggest chromium resources base in China. It has many rivers and lakes and is rich in water resources.
Shannan attracts numerous Chinese and foreign tourists with its ancient cultural heritage, rich and strong national flavor, enchanting natural scenery, unique historical sites and other tourist resources.
Samye Monastery has a history of over 1,200 years. It is designed to represent the Buddhist universe and many of the buildings in the courtyard are cosmological symbols. The central building of Samye, its foremost feature, comprises a synthesis of architectural styles: the ground and first floors were originally Tibetan in style; the second floor was Chinese and the third floor Indian.
Trandruk Monastery is one of the earliest Buddhist monasteries in Tibet, a significant stop for Tibetan pilgrims. Dating back to the 7th century reign of Songtsen Gampo, it is one of the "Demoness Subduing" temples of Tibet. Trandruk Monastery is also famous for its “Pearl Tangka" which is the image of Compassion Buddha made up of almost 30,000 pearls, and much other jewelry.
Dratang Monastery was established in 1081. The founder of the monastery Drapa Eshepa is one of the 13 sages in Dranuang Country. This monastery belongs to Sakyapa Sect. The monastery absorbed some architectures style from Samye Monastery – there were three surrounding walls but now only 750 meters are left. It had 3 stories before but now only one is left. The murals of this monastery are the most precious.
Minzholing monastery was built in the 10th century and had its current name when it was rebuilt in 1677. It is one of the three great monasteries of the Nyingma Sect. The monastery has paid attention to the research of Buddhist classics, astronomical calendar, calligraphy rhetoric and Tibetan medicines and is famous for its achievements in these fields.
Yumbu Lakang Palace (Yumbu Lhakang Palace) is the first palace in Tibetan history. It is also one of the oldest buildings in Tibet. It was said that the palace was built in the second century B.C. by the first king Nyatri Tsanpo. It houses the statues of the three-world Buddhas and Tsanpos of various historical stages Nyatri Tsanpo, Lhatu and Trisong Detsen. A Buddhist sutra fell from the sky onto the roof of Yumbu Lakang. Nobody can read the book. Upstairs there is a small chanting hall, which houses Sakyamuni and Chenrezi. A mural gallery above tells Nyatri’s arrival from the sky and other stories about him as well as on other aspects of Tibetan history.
Tibetan Kings Tomb. Among all of the tombs, the most remarkable one is King Songtsan Gampo's. The thirty-second king Gampo moved the capital to Lhasa, and then unified the whole Tibet. According to historical records there are five underground chambers containing statues of Songtsan Gampo, Shakyamni and Padmasambava with great quantities of gold, silver, pearls and agates as funeral objects. The coffin itself is said to have been laid in the central chamber and to its left side is said to be a suit of amour worn by Songtsan Gampo during his expedition.
Yamzho Yumco Lake: Yamzho means upper pasture and Yum means green jade in Tibetan. In a bird's eye view, the lake is like a big piece of sapphire inlaid in the mountains and is very beautiful. The lake is situated 4,400 meters above sea level. It covers an area of 800 sq km and is 30-40 meters deep. The lake is rich in hydropower resources. Its surface is more than 800 meters higher than the Yarlung Zangbo River at the foot of the mountain. Also here stands the Yamzho Yumco Power Station well known for its high elevation in the world.
Chim-puk Hermitage is a warren of caves that was once a retreat for Guru Rinpoche and other high ranking lamas. Chim-puk Hermitage is to the north-east of Samye. After crossing through desert-like territory for a couple of hours, the path ascends into the surprisingly lush area in which the caves are found. It can be an ideal route for day hike.
Kanggardo Mountain is 7,060 meters above sea level. It is fully covered by snow all year round. Its topography is lower in southern section and higher in northern section. Its main peak is surrounded by dozens of peaks with an elevation of more than 6,000 meters. In the valley there are many glaciers. Here the average rainfall is more than 400mm. On the mountain slopes and gullies are dense forests teeming with dozens kinds of wildlife such as wild donkeys and Mongolian gazelles.