chapter  8
Lhasa community, world heritage and human rights
ByAmund Sinding- Larsen
Pages 10

Lhasa, the historic capital of Tibet, is a holy city and the focus of adoration for millions of Tibetan Buddhists. Perceived through the centuries as a remote ‘spiritual kingdom’ or ‘Shangrila’ closed off from the surrounding world, Tibet was governed by a feudal theocracy until the second half of the twentieth century (Shakya 1999, Dodin and Rather 2001). In a society of immense riches controlled by monastic institutions and landowning families, a majority of Tibetans are thought to have lived in poverty and in lifelong religious service, undertaking Buddhist rituals through which to secure a better existence in the next life. Lhasa is much changed today and its magnificent Potala Palace (Figure 1), once a holy site and sacred power base, now serves principally as a museum and tourist attraction, raising concern about the disconnection between the people, their once living heritage and their cultural identity.