Scholarly article on topic 'Typology of religious spaces in the urban historical area of Lhasa, Tibet'

Typology of religious spaces in the urban historical area of Lhasa, Tibet Academic research paper on "Social and economic geography"

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Frontiers of Architectural Research
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{"Tibetan Buddhism" / "Religious space" / Mandala / Typology}

Abstract of research paper on Social and economic geography, author of scientific article — Yingzi Zhang, Tao Wei

Abstract This work focuses on the spatial compositions and characteristics of religious sites and surrounding pilgrimage space in the city of Lhasa, which is the sacred center of Tibet. The modernization and urbanization of the city in recent decades have transformed the spatial and socioeconomic positions of its urban religious sites. The present study offers insights into the composition of urban religious spaces in the city of Lhasa with consideration to the spatiality and sociality of these spaces. After examining the current situations of religious spaces, we classify the target spaces into five types using the cluster analysis method and identify the characteristics of each type. We then discuss the socioeconomic values of each type of religious space and derive recommendations for planners. The analysis performed in this study may contribute in the special planning for the protection of religious traditions.

Academic research paper on topic "Typology of religious spaces in the urban historical area of Lhasa, Tibet"

Frontiers of Architectural Research (■■■■) I, III III

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Frontiers of Architectural Research



Typology of religious spaces in the urban historical area of Lhasa, Tibet

Yingzi Zhang*, Tao Wei

Department of Architecture, Southwest Jiaotong University, Chengdu 611756, China Received 25 November 2016; received in revised form 14 May 2017; accepted 14 May 2017


Tibetan Buddhism; Religious space; Mandala; Typology


This work focuses on the spatial compositions and characteristics of religious sites and surrounding pilgrimage space in the city of Lhasa, which is the sacred center of Tibet. The modernization and urbanization of the city in recent decades have transformed the spatial and socioeconomic positions of its urban religious sites. The present study offers insights into the composition of urban religious spaces in the city of Lhasa with consideration to the spatiality and sociality of these spaces. After examining the current situations of religious spaces, we classify the target spaces into five types using the cluster analysis method and identify the characteristics of each type. We then discuss the socioeconomic values of each type of religious space and derive recommendations for planners. The analysis performed in this study may contribute in the special planning for the protection of religious traditions. © 2017 The Authors. Production and hosting by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

1. Introduction

Mankind has always desired to replicate the sacred world in the physical world (Michell, 1994), thereby endeavoring to receive the goodness of their gods through pilgrimages (Popi et al., 2012). Therefore, cities have long been symbolically and materially associated with various religions (Goh and van der Veer, 2016). This association is particularly true for the historical cities of Tibet, which has experienced

*Corresponding author.

E-mail address: (Y. Zhang). Peer review under responsibility of Southeast University.

theocracy for a hundred years—religion has profoundly influenced every aspect of the Tibetan society.

Similar to early Indian Buddhism, the conception of the world in Tibetan Buddhism is perfectly represented by the theoretical Mandala (Figure 1). As the birthplace of Tibetan Buddhism, the city of Lhasa was deemed by the adherents of Buddhism to be the world center of sacred Tibet. By replicating the sacred spirit world of Mandala in its construction, the ancient and sacred city of Lhasa formed the original single-core urban structure, with the Jokhang Temple (24) serving as the urban core (Zhang et al., 2011). Simultaneously, a religious activity developed, involving pilgrimages to sacred places that follow a route in clockwise direction around the sacred places, as seen in Figure 2 (Funo, 2006;


2095-2635/© 2017 The Authors. Production and hosting by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

Figure 1 Mandala (Brauen, 1997).

Kanagisawa and Funo, 2004; Zhang et al., 2012). In the 17th century, more than 90% of Tibetans became Buddhists with the establishment of theocracy in Tibet. Over the next 300 years, Tibetan Buddhism played a decisive role in the development of Lhasa, which is the capital city of Tibet, and affected the city in both spatial and social aspects. First, Buddhism practitioners sanctified the city of Lhasa by constructing temples and pilgrimage locations. Second, religious rituals (including pilgrimages) developed into one of the most important aspects of the daily social life of residents. As a result, the relationship between sacred beings, urban space, and social order became deeply rooted in the city of Lhasa.

After the incorporation of Tibet into the People's Republic of China during the 1950s, theocracy was replaced with a socialist system, which resulted in the transformation of the social structure in Tibet (Chen and Gao, 2003; He et al., 2010). In the early republican period, the religious buildings of Lhasa and their surrounding spaces suffered varying degrees of damage for political reasons (Li, 2010). Nevertheless, atheism did not succeed in displacing Buddhism. By the 1980s, religion began to resurge. In the early 1990s, Potala Palace (26) and Jokhang Temple (24), which are

listed as world cultural heritage sites, triggered the development of tourism, which subsequently resulted in socioeconomic transformation (Zhang et al., 2016). Lhasa's religious significance as the center of the spirit world was modified to that of a city of culture, where the religious sites became heritage attractions for tourism and investment. This situation has been a double-edged sword for the urban religion of Lhasa. On the one hand, the government strengthened the protection of religious buildings to boost tourism and investment (Li, 2010). On the other hand, urbanism and modernity have resulted in secularization, and the consumption culture of contemporary globalization has increasingly impinged on religious beliefs and practices (Zhou and Zhu, 2011).

In this process, the pilgrimage spaces surrounding the religious destinations have undergone conversion to multifunctional spaces through imaging, marketing, and commo-dification according to their different relationships with the city. Therefore, we hypothesize that the religious spaces have been converted into different categories with different spatial conditions.

Over the centuries, these religious buildings have been invaluable to the social and cultural life of the city, serving as the center of life. The pilgrimage places that surround the sacred architectural objects determine the identity of the space and give it significant characteristics (Wang, 2005). Additionally, the socioeconomic values of the urban religious spaces, which are influenced by religious values, social norms, and spatial conditions, play an important role in urban development. Therefore, an appropriate protection system is required. Classification analysis on the heritage site aids in understanding the values and elements of protected objects (Zhou and Zhang, 2001). Thus, this study focuses on the conversion of religious spaces with the aim of clarifying the characteristics and socioeconomic values of the different spaces via typological analysis.

2. Literature review

Religion is an inevitable subject in Tibetology research. Scholars of sociology and anthropology who have studied the religion of Tibet have repeatedly described the sanctification of cities and the religious influences on people's lives. They analyzed how the theory of Buddhism influenced the Tibetans' mindset, worldview, and value orientation and found that religion is the determining factor of the social relations of Tibetans (Chen, 2012; Lui, 2009; Ye, 2011; Zhang and Chen, 2007; Zhao and Zhu, 2009). Urban religious studies all over the world, including Tibet, have emphasized the religious aspirations of humanity—the idea that people attempt to establish connections between the physical and spiritual worlds (Kong, 2001; Michell, 1994; Popi, 2012; Zhang, 2007; Tang, 2009). This aspiration is mainly manifested in religious rituals and the replication of the sacred world in the construction of living spaces.

In terms of living space organization, Tibetan religious theories, such as the ladder theory, the Raksasi theory, and the Mandala theory, have decisive impacts on the location, spatial organization, and sacred place of cities (Xu and Liu, 2003a, 2003b; Xu, 2007). However, Wei et al. (2007) identified the decisive influence of regime on the formation of city patterns through his analysis of the transformation of main Tibetan cities. Zhang also adopted this perspective in her research on the typology of Tibetan cities. Zhang et al. (2011); Zhang et al., (2016) Furthermore, the religious influence on traditional Tibetan settlements is obvious. Chinese and Japanese scholars have taken great interest in the relationship between the Tibetans' living space and religion, publishing many research papers on the subjects (e.g., Hamada et al., 2001; He, 2009; Hu and Huang, 2010; Huang, 2006; Inoue and Nakaki, 1999; Jia, 2002; Taniguchi et al., 2007). These scholars emphasized that the religious requirement of Tibetans for their living space results in spatial similarities in their settlements and houses (Hu and Huang, 2010).

Religious rituals can be categorized as a primitive exchange system, through which people may connect with a perfect world (Mauss, 1961). As all religious practices involve geography (Dora, 2015), the spaces that support the rituals play an important role. Chidester and Linenthal even argued that sacred space is ritual space (Chidester and Linenthal, 1995). By integrating religious rituals into their daily lives, Tibetans have constructed several types of spaces for pilgrimages (Chen, 2012). Urban researchers who focus on urban pilgrimage routes have identified the formation process and spatial composition of these routes (Bai, 2010; Jiang et al., 2013; Monita and Funo, 1997; Zhang, 2008). However, the religious spaces in Tibetan cities do not merely serve as pilgrimage spaces, especially in the sacred city of Lhasa. Focusing on this special issue, researchers identified the close relationships between the Tibetan Buddhism culture and the spatial forms of the old urban area in Lhasa (Suolang, 2006; Yese, 2010; Wang and Wu, 2014).

Under modernization and urbanization, the meaning of religion is often transformed and taken up in everyday life (Kong, 2001). This phenomenon opened an area for analysis.

Grimes' work group, which focuses on the museumization of religious objects, confirmed that a religious space can be altered by inhabitation (Grimes, 1992). Religious spaces and practices as heritage attractions of a city become commo-dified (Graham and Murray, 1997). Several other studies focused on the socioeconomic values of religious places in modern cities, as well as their relationship with planning and policies (i.e., Grapard, 1998; Kong, 2001; Clara, 2016; Hancock and Srinivas, 2008; Francesco, 2015). In the religious city of Lhasa, the religious sites are not only urban heritage sites that need protection but also social spaces that need reactivation (Zhang et al., 2011). Heritage protection and urban regeneration studies suggest that the space condition and value of a heritage site provides basic information for the establishment of protection plans and solutions (Bai, 2003; Wang, 2015; Tubden and Li, 2011; Zhou and Zhang, 2001). However, a limited number of studies have focused on the compositions of religious spaces in contemporary Tibetan cities. In 2005, a joint research project between the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and Tibet University investigated the historic district and urban landscape of Lhasa and provided a large amount of basic data for urban public space research (Larsen and Larsen, 2005). Since then, researchers have observed the secularization of urban pilgrimage routes in the modern city of Lhasa (Zhang, 2012; Wei, 2015). Aside from failing to consider pilgrimage routes, urban studies have neglected to consider the ritual spaces surrounding religious buildings, which play an important role in the urban ritual space structure (Wei, 2015). As a result of planners and researchers not attaching importance to religious urban relations (Li, 2010), the protection plan for urban heritage sites serves as a tool for preserving architectural style and urban landscape in addition to resolving religious-urban conflicts from the development perspective.

3. Research design and methodology 3.1. Framework

The topic "urban religious space" is developed from the authors' research experience on the subject of Tibetan urban space. In this work, religious spaces refer to the urban public spaces that surround Buddhist buildings or structures that originally provided spaces for religious activities for Tibetan Buddhists. The theory of urban religious aspiration suggests that religious practitioners actively respond to urbanization processes by adapting their religious practices to the secular spaces of modernized cities (Goh, 2016). Consequently, urban religious spaces change accordingly (Zhang et al., 2012). Religious space is more than its spatiality; it is a social product that is constructed through space, constrained by space, and mediated by space (Lefebvre, 1984). Hence, this study focuses on the religious spaces transformed by urbanization and considers both the physical and social elements to analyze the subjective and objective compositions of urban religious spaces comprehensively. Specifically, this study is a multi-object study, and each spatial object comprises multiple constitution elements. In this context, typological research method is considered a suitable way to obtain a clear understanding of spatial compos-

ition (Architecture Institute of Japan, 2012). This study approaches the composition typology of religious spaces through two main phases of analysis: 1) data collection and 2) classification.

1) Data collection

We conducted two field studies in August 2014 and January 2015 for spatial data collection. In the first phase, through field observation and intensive interviews that focus on the spaces around the Buddhist temples in the historic district, we first defined the scope of urban religious spaces that surround each temple. Accordingly, information on every urban religious place inside the old area of Lhasa—in terms of spatial composition, such as maps, behaviors, and literature—were collected through measurements, sketches, and intensive interviews. In terms of the elements comprising the religious spaces, both objective elements (such as core, boundary, facility, and form) and

subjective elements (such as function of core, function of boundary, and spatial behaviors) were included.

2) Classification process

In the second phase, we first specify the composition elements as the variables for the typology analysis of the uniqueness of Tibetan Buddhism. Then, we classify the religious spaces according to the results of the field studies to understand the similarities and differences among the locations. We arrange the spaces with similar features into one group by classifying the spatial compositions according to the selected variables. As a statistical classification method, cluster analysis is widely used in architectural and urban research, including in the analysis of residential functions, use of facilities, regional environmental characteristics, and composition of buildings (Architecture Institute of Japan, 2012). Therefore, this study utilizes cluster analysis for the hierarchical classification of religious spaces.

Figure 3 Old urban area of Lhasa.

3.2. Definition of research target

Prior to analyzing the urban religious spaces in Lhasa, we must define the type of space that can be considered an urban religious space for the purpose of this study. The historical area of Lhasa, which has experienced a thousand-year transformation, is regarded as the sacred land of Tibet. This study focuses the analysis on the religious spaces inside this area (Figure 3). On the basis of the influence of Buddhist ideologies, this study specifies three important factors of an urban religious space: Buddhist buildings and structures, urban spaces, and religious activities. Hence, in this work, urban religious spaces refer to the urban public spaces surrounding Buddhist buildings or structures that originally provided Tibetan Buddhists with spaces for religious activities.

Inside the historical city areas, three urban pilgrimage streets surround the Jokhang Temple (24), Potala Palace (26), and the whole historical city area (Figure 3) (Monita and Funo, 1997; Zhang et al., 2012). The three pilgrimage streets are undoubtedly urban religious spaces, as described by the definitions of this study. However, as the authors have previously conducted specific research on the spatial composition of these three streets (Zhang et al., 2012), they are no longer included in the present study.

4. Data collection of space composition

The historic urban area of Lhasa is formed around two main cores, namely, Potala Palace (26) and Jokhang Temple (24),

and one sub-core, that is, Ramoche Temple (25) (Wei et al., 2007). It houses 26 Buddhist buildings and 2 structures (Wei, 2015). All 28 religious buildings and structures are located within the three districts surrounding Potala Palace (26), Jokhang Temple (24), and Ramoche Temple (25). The Johkang district houses 15 temples, the Ramoche district houses 8 temples, and the Potala district houses 2 Buddhist towers and 3 buildings (Figure 4). Aside from the three district cores, this study focuses on the analysis of urban religious spaces surrounding the other 25 religious buildings and structures. Based on field surveys, the scopes of each religious space are identified and shown in Figure 5. The objective and subjective spatial composition data are shown in Table 1.

4.1. Objective elements

1) Core of space

In terms of the core of urban religious spaces, apart from the two towers in the Potala district, all the other cores are Buddhist temples. With regard to religious factions, they include 18 Gelug faction temples, 3 Nyingma faction temples, and 2 other factions.

2) Plan

With regard to plane modality, aside from the religious space of the tower in front of Potala Palace (26), which was damaged by the newly constructed Beijing Road, and the obsolete Jebumgang Lhakhang (27), the other 23 temples and

Figure 4 Distribution of religious architectures in old urban area.

Figure 5 Plane graph of urban religious spaces.

Table 1 Space element features.

Space no. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 21 22 23

Space Function Others • •

Entertainment • • •

Tourism • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Commercial • • •

Religious •

Facility Others •

Entertainment •

Grass • •

Religious • • • • • • • •

Types of connect- Park road • • •

ing road Residential Road • • • • • •

Urban road • • • •

Religious space • • • • • • • • •

plane form Others • • • •

— form • • • • •

L form • • • •

Ring form • • • • • • • • •

Boundary Function Commercial • • • • • • • •

Residential • • • • •

Enclosed by building •

Double side enclosure •

Core Function Commercial • • • • • • • • •

Residential • • • • • • • •

Religious •

Whether Gelug Faction

whether religious building

structures are surrounded by their urban religious spaces. However, urban construction transformed the original ring plane modality. Our investigation reveals that aside from the nine spaces that still retain the ring plane form, the others have experienced changes in plane modality, resulting in five L form spaces, four — form spaces, and five other forms. 3) Space section and interface form

In terms of space section, the religious space in the Potala Palace (26) area is a linear space of a non-enclosed building, and the remaining spaces are street spaces of

double-sided enclosed buildings. All spaces include 2-10 m of walking space, and the enclosed buildings comprise two to four layers. From the perspective of enclosing interface forms, a typical interface form is composed of a façade of traditional Tibetan architectural structure, and most likely, a functional space opens toward the space at the bottom of the building. However, the recent expansion and renovation of historic street areas has led to the emergence of modern architectural forms; 11 of the religious spaces have interfaces with modern buildings as facades (Figure 6).

Non Enclosed Space

Figure 6

Urban religious spaces.

4) Facility

In terms of facilities in space, except for religious spaces, such as the already abandoned Jebumgang Lhakhang (27), Shide Dratsang (19), Nima Lacan (6), and South Manjushri Buddhist Temple, other religious spaces have corresponding religious facilities. At the same time, the functional changes of some religious buildings and surrounding religious spaces have led to several other types of temporary space facilities, such as commercial and residential facilities.

5) Main contact with other urban roads

A religious urban space does not exist independently; it connects to and interacts with other urban spaces. Therefore, we examined in what way (direct or indirect) and from what type of space a user mainly enters a religious space. The results show that among all religious spaces, the most common are those mainly connected to the living road and those indirectly connected to other religious spaces, each accounting for 26%. Spaces that partly overlap with other religious spaces accounted for 17.4%; spaces that are directly or indirectly connected with urban roads accounted for 17.3%; and spaces that are directly connected to city park roads accounted for 13%.

4.2. Subjective elements

1) Core functions

Religious buildings have gradually experienced functional changes in the modern urban development process, either losing religious functions or gaining new functions. In the survey of spatial core functions, all but nine of the core buildings exhibited functional changes. Although Jebum-gang Lhakhang (27) and Shide Dratsang (19) have been completely abandoned, five buildings on the original bases show increased residential features, six buildings show new commercial functions, and three buildings feature both additions (Figure 7).

2) Function of interface

In the historic street area, the areas near the religious facilities and religious spaces are substantially surrounded by traditional houses or commercial and residential buildings evolved from traditional houses. These buildings closely

Figure 7 Functions of religious core.

Residential Commercial Tourism Others Figure 8 Functions of interface.

interact with their surrounded spaces, and we investigated their impact on the religious spaces. For the buildings surrounding religious facilities, the façade features as a religious space boundary, and we investigated its impact. In the survey, we defined that if an opening toward a religious space exists on a building façade that serves as a religious space interface and if the religious space can be directly accessed through this opening, then the function of the room opening the door toward the religious space is the function of an interface. Except where no clear entity can be established around the space; spatial interfaces are mostly composed of coexisting residential and commercial façades. A few interfaces have living functions, and two spatial interfaces only have business functions. 3) Type of space activities

With the city and building function changes, along with other factors, many activity types have become infused into the original religious spaces. Through the survey of activity types and population features within the spaces, we found that the main activities inside the religious spaces are religious activities, commercial activities, and tourism activities. These three categories accounted for 92% of all activities. Because of the destruction of core religious facilities and other factors, 8 spaces do not have religious activities, 18 spaces have commercial activities, and 15 spaces have tourist activities (Figure 8).

5. Classification of religious spaces

From the above analysis on spatial composition elements, religious buildings and related urban religious spaces have clearly undergone significant changes during the urbanization of Lhasa in recent decades. Every element, including spatial form and function, has changed. To understand the composition of religious spaces better, this section uses these elements to extract classification factors and conduct a classification analysis on Lhasa's religious spaces.

5.1. Selection of classification variables and objects

Based on the theory of Tibetan Buddhism, each religious space being studied must be arranged in a spatial system that contains three elements: religious architecture as the core of the space, the pilgrimage route as the religious space, and the enclosed building as the boundary of the sacred space. This study identifies classification variables related to these three main factors from the two aspects of physical composition and social properties. As functional change directly gives expression to the socioeconomic transformation of space, the functions of the three spatial components are considered in the classification. In addition, considering the secular-sacred conflict, we also use the major external relations of religious spaces as one of the variables in the classification process.

Therefore, in this section, we determine the classification variables and their assignment as follows: a. plane modality (ring form, L form, — form, and others), b. core (building, structure), c. enclosure (building, others), d. enclosure methods (two-side, one-side, non-enclosure), e. major external relations (connection with religious spaces, connection with urban roads, connection with living roads, connection with park roads), f. facility (religious, entertainment, grass, commercial, others), g. function of core (religious, residential, commercial, tourism, others), h. function of boundary (residential, commercial, others), i. behaviors of space (religious, commercial, tourism, entertainment, others). In terms of the classification objects, the above analysis indicates that the religious cores of No. 19 Shide Dratsang (19), No. 27 Jebumgang Lhakhang (27), and No. 28 Bargo kani (28) have been abandoned. Hence, these three spaces are excluded as classification objects.

5.2. Classification process

This study utilizes the statistical analysis program Statistical Product and Service Solutions to classify the 22 spaces with the agglomerative hierarchical cluster method. In the classification process, we use the square Euclidean distance method to calculate the distance between each group (the differences pertaining to variables) and the furthest neighbor method to group the objects. All the spaces are classified according to the nine variables determined above. Before clustering the spaces, the data of the variables are identified numerically in binary data. Figure 9 shows the process and result of the space classification in the form of a dendogram (Charles and Robert, 1989; Zhang and Deguchi , 2011).

As shown in the dendogram figure, the spaces are divided into four groups with a group distance of 15 and seven groups with a group distance of 10. Considering the purpose of this study, we use the cluster result in which the distance is 12. Thus, all 22 spaces are finally classified into five groups: Cluster 1 (four spaces), Cluster 2 (six spaces), Cluster 3 (four spaces), Cluster 4 (five spaces), and Cluster 5 (three spaces). Figure 10 shows the distribution of every group of space.

5.3. Characteristics of each group

By investigating the spatial factors and their combinations, we identify the characteristics of each group from the perspective of spatial composition.

5.3.1. Characteristics of Cluster 1

No. 3 Chang Rigsum Lhakhang (3), 21 Gyume Dratsang (21), 22 Meru Dratsang (22), and 23 Tengyeling Temple (23) are

Figure 9 Dendogram figure of cluster result.

Figure 10 Distribution of spaces in different clusters.

the spaces assigned to Cluster 1. From the spatial distribution perspective, the four spaces are in the Jokhang and Ramoche areas, away from the central area. Figure 11 reflects the constituent features of these spaces.

1. In terms of the plane modality of such spaces, the religious buildings form the core, with other buildings surrounding them and forming a double-sided enclosed ring-form street space.

2. With urban construction, the plane forms of No. 3 Chang Rigsum Lhakhang (3) and No. 21 Gyume Dratsang (21) change while the other two spaces retain their ring form.

3. As far the external spatial connection, these spaces are accessible mainly through urban main roads, and they direct impact one another in relation to urban roads.

4. With respect to spatial architectural features, the religious core architecture retains its religious function and is added with a business function. Several of them have a residential function. The bottom of the frontage of enclosed buildings mainly has a business function.

5. As a result of the changes in spatial behaviors, in addition to the original religious activities, the main types of activities are commercial activities.

Figure 11 Characteristics of Cluster 1.

The summary above shows that the most important feature of these spaces is their close relationship with urban roads. Such relationship causes the buildings and activities in the religious spaces to develop a commercial tendency. We therefore name this cluster city as a commercial religious space.

5.3.2. Characteristics of Cluster 2

The second cluster contains six spaces: No. 2 Darpoling (2), 11 Dashol Gyekhang (11), 13 Lho Rigsum Lhakhang (13), 16 Trode Khangsar (16), 17 Kamarshar (17), and 18 Ani Tsang-kung (18). These spaces are located in the Jokhang area, far from the central area (Figure 12).

1. Similar to the previous cluster, Cluster 2 features spaces that are centered by religious buildings and surrounded by other buildings, but the original ring shape has evolved.

2. The spatial location shows that the spaces of this cluster are in the middle of the Jebumgang Lhakhang (27) residential area, and they are all connected to residential alleys in the old residential area.

3. Religious buildings retain their religious function, but they are added with living or business functions. In terms of the architectural features of enclosed spaces, No. 11 Dashol Gyekhang (11) and No. 16 Trode Khangsar (16) are spaces enclosed by residential buildings; for the rest of the spaces, enclosed buildings are mainly ground-floor businesses with additional residential features.

4. From the point of view of spatial behavior, No. 11 Dashol Gyekhang (11) and No. 16 Trode Khangsar (16) are mainly for religious behavior, whereas the other spaces additionally have business behavior.

5. The functional and spatial behavior types of buildings in Clusters 1 and 2 are similar. However, the survey shows that the business in Cluster 2 consists mainly of daily catering and daily necessity, whereas Cluster 1 is traditional clothing-based.

Owing to this space cluster's close contact with the surrounding living area, the space activities also include life activities. Hence, we name this cluster as a religious living space.

5.3.3. Characteristics of Cluster 3

The third cluster consists of four spaces: No. 6 Nima Lacan (6), 7 Mindrolling Altar (7), 9 Sakya Altar (9), and 20 Tsomonling Dratsang (20). Aside from No. 20 Tsomonling Dratsang (20) that is located in the Ramoche district, the remaining three are in the Jokhang district, close to the central area (Figure 13).

1. Such spaces are close to the religious cores or Kora paths. At the same time, these spaces partially overlap with other religious spaces, or they have indirect connections to them.

2. In terms of plane form, the spaces all retain their ring shape.

3. In terms of the spatial architectural function, the core architecture is still dominated by religious function, with a few living or business functions. The function of the spatial interface is mainly residential, with the frontages mainly performing a living function.

4. The spatial behavior includes religious, tourism, and business activities, with business being mainly tourism-oriented business.

Figure 12 Characteristics of Cluster 2.

Figure 13 Characteristics of Cluster 3.

In sum, this cluster is connected closely with the urban religious core and other religions spaces, and the spatial form remains intact so that religious behavior can be continued. The new travel and tourism business practices reflect the close relationship between the space and tourism. Therefore, because such religious space has a travel connotation, we call it a tourism-religious space with intact form.

5.3.4. Characteristics of Cluster 4

No. 1 Rabsel Tsenkhang (1), 4 Jamkhang (4), 5 Tsheda Lhakhang (5), 12 Muru Nyingba (12), and 14 Nub Rigsum Lhakhang (14) form the fourth space cluster. This space cluster is located within the central area of the Jokhang and Ramoche districts (Figure 14).

Figure 14 Characteristics of Cluster 4.

1. Similar to that of Cluster 3, the spatial distribution of Cluster 4 is close to the religious cores or Kora paths, as well as to other religious spaces.

2. From the spatial form perspective, the plane form of Cluster 4 has evolved from its original ring shape into another form, such as the L and U types.

3. The core architectural features of the space are mainly religious in function. Living functionality is added, and the buildings of enclosed spaces are based on the hybrid architecture of underlying frontage for business and upper level for living functions.

4. The behavior in the fourth cluster is also similar to that in the third cluster, including religious, tourism, and commercial activities, with minor amounts of other types of behavior.

Similar to Cluster 3, Cluster 4 is connected closely with the urban religious core and other religions spaces, but the original ring form of the space is changed. Although religious behavior continues, new travel and tourism business makes religious activities lose their dominant position. Therefore, we call this cluster of religious space as a tourism-religious space with non-intact form.

5.3.5. Characteristics of Cluster 5

The fifth space cluster includes No. 5 Tsheda Lhakhang (5), 8 Demon Tower (8), and 10 Lupu Yan Temple (10). These three religious spaces are located in the Potala district. As a result of the surroundings being quite different from those in other clusters, these spaces exhibit completely different features from other clusters, as shown in Figure 15.

1. No. 10 Lupu Yan Temple (10) is in Chakpori Park to the south of Potala Palace (26). The other two spaces are in

the Zongjiaolukang Park to the north of Potala Palace (26). The surrounding environment is mainly a tourist-oriented urban leisure space. These three spaces are closely related to other park roads because they are located inside parks.

2. Aside from No. 10 Lupu Yan Temple (10), which has religious buildings as the core, the remaining two spaces are centered by landscape structures, such as a white tower or pavilion. Compared with the other four space clusters, the fifth cluster of space has no clear physical enclosure.

3. As a result of the location of the spaces in the park, facilities are relatively abundant in this cluster. In addition to religious facilities, this cluster features a green space and rest facilities.

4. The spatial cores all maintain their original religious functions. From the spatial behavior point of view, aside from religious activities, such spaces also contain many leisure behaviors. As a result of the proximity of the spaces to Potala Palace (26), a few tourist activities are observed in the spaces.

Thus, the close relations of the spaces in this cluster with Potala Palace (26) and comprehensive urban parks result in the complexity of the types of behavior associated with the spaces. We therefore call this cluster leisure-religious space.

Through a horizontal comparison of these five space clusters, we can precisely see the inevitable divisions of the religious spaces. Cluster 1 (C1) space, which is closely linked to urban main roads, is integrated into a large number of commercial activities and shows a tendency to evolve toward urban commercial spaces. Cluster 2 (C2) space, located deep inside the living area, is closely tied with the traditional lifestyles of residents and has

Figure 15 Characteristics of Cluster 5.

developed many residential behaviors and business practices associated with everyday life. The religious status and tourism value of Ramoche and Jebumgang Lhakhang (27) are bound to gather large religious and tourism crowds at their peripheries. Thus, Clusters 3 and 4 (C3 and C4) are closely linked to the two temples and other religious spaces and are influenced by the cores. Hence, in these two groups of spaces, religious activities are relatively well continued, and tourist activities are frequent. Finally, Cluster 5 (C5) surrounding the tourist destination Potala Palace (26) is located within Lhasa's integrated urban public park; therefore, these spaces not only continue their original religious activities but also attract Lhasa residents' leisure activities and tourist participation.

6. Discussion

The socioeconomic development of the city of Lhasa significantly transformed its urban spatial and social structure (R.N. Zhou, 2008; R. Zhou, 2008). The transformation not only resulted in urban secularization (R.N. Zhou, 2008, R. Zhou, 2008) but also prompted religious actors to seek to produce new urban worlds and reshape their daily urban lives that do not differentiate between the urban and the sacred (Goh, 2016). In this process, urban religious spaces experienced transformation and conversion in both spatial and functional aspects. Simultaneously, the Tibetans also changed their religious activities. On the basis of the above typological analysis, we found that the religious spaces in Lhasa have shown differentiation in the process of urbanization. Additionally, we precisely observed the direct impact of urban development and the surrounding environment on the religious spaces; such spaces have exhibited different physical compositions and functional changes. However, planners do not attach importance to city-religion relationships (Li, 2010). Indeed, the city and religion should drive each other forward through the agency of religious practitioners (Goh, 2016). In this context, we may state that advancing the socioeconomic position of religious spaces in rapidly developing cities is an attractive issue.

Previous research has identified the conflict between urban religious tradition and urban modernization and has highlighted the importance of religion in the future development of Lhasa without considering the different socioeconomic values of each religious space (Li, 2010; Wei, 2015; Zhang et al., 2017; R.N. Zhou, 2008; R. Zhou, 2008). The difference between previous research and the current work is due to the use of the classification analysis in our study, which more decisively clarified the different spatial compositions in the contemporary city in comparison with previous studies. This finding is especially significant for capturing the socioeconomic values of each type of space.

As asserted by Zhou and Zhang (2001), buildings with different values require hierarchical solutions. Our five clusters indicate that all places and behaviors constitute the "religious space structure," in which each space occupies a different position with a different value. From the perspective of the socioeconomic value of these clusters in future urban development, C3 and C4 are located in the core area of the districts, with a primarily religious function in the core building; religious tradition also presents a

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Figure 16 Models for spatial structure and protective solutions for urban religious spaces.

strong attraction to tourists. Hence, these two types of spaces represent strong religious-cultural and tourism values. C2 has been secularized to a certain extent because of the functional conversion of the core building and the fragmentary religious spatial form. However, due to a certain number of local pilgrims in the space, it also bears religious significance to the local Tibetan people. C1 is in the transition zone of the historic district and modern city road, and thus, its architectural and spatial transformation are significant, and it continues to face the conflict of a modernized city; thus, it may regrettably lose its original religious meaning over time. C5, which simultaneously connects with the urban leisure space and tourist destination and contains a variety of activities, is an important place for people's daily leisure activities. It carries a certain tourist value and attracts urban social activities (Table 2).

In conjunction with the findings of previous research on urban pilgrimage routes, the results of the present study illustrate that all the religious places in the city of Lhasa have experienced varying degrees of conversion (Larsen and Larsen, 2005; Li, 2010; Zhang et al., 2012). The religious space structure determined in this work and the secular area constitute the urban-religious relation structure. The position in the structure determines the value, and the value determines the protective directions (Figure 16a). Both here and abroad, historical and cultural heritage is divided into many levels for protection (Bai, 2003; Wang, 2015; Zhou and Zhang, 2001). The historical district of Lhasa is divided into three categories for urban landscape control. Accordingly, we suggest value-oriented conservation planning with four protection levels (Figure 16).

C1 should be reformed and controlled in terms of its evolution mainly to revive the religious function of the core architecture, rationally organize religious and commercial activities within the space, and control excessive city commercial invasion. The C2 space inside the communities of Tibetan people should ensure the relative stability of religious activities, appropriately restore the original form of the religious space, and improve the ability of religious space to serve the residents while reducing destruction because of inhabitants' activities. For C3 and C4, we should positively develop their tourism values and enhance the religious and cultural values of the core buildings to ensure the spaces' integrity and multi-containment. Finally, for C5,

residents' daily religious activities and leisure activities should be integrated, and the interference of tourism activities should be minimized.

7. Conclusion

Tibetan religious activities represent a unique traditional type of social life, and the resulting urban religious spaces have become an important part of the urban culture in Tibet. Particularly for the sacred city of Lhasa, religion and urban life were closely intertwined before modernity (Zhang et al., 2011). In addition to the three urban pilgrimage roads, which were deeply analyzed in previous academic research (Deng and Bian, 2010; Jiang, 2013; Monita and Funo, 1997; Zhang et al., 2012), urban development has also markedly affected the spaces surrounding the Buddhist architecture, especially those intended for pilgrimage (Wei, 2015).

In this study, a spatial investigation into these ritual spaces around Buddhist architecture yielded two key findings. First, all religious spaces could be divided into five groups. The reason why these religious spaces transformed into different types of spaces is closely linked to the factors of urban development, spatial location, and relationship with the surrounding environment. Second, the characteristics of the spatial clusters reflect different socioeconomic values and positions in the religious space structure for future urban development.

One of the stubborn assumptions of many recent urban research is that religion is external, incidental, or peripheral to the discussion of urban modernity (Mary and Smriti, 2008). This phenomenon, which is prevalent in China, has particularly plagued the work on urban religious protection. Particularly in Tibet, which was under theocracy for a hundred years, intensive demands are assigned to the protection of religion in modern times. However, the current planning for the protection of the historic district that is mainly conducted from the perspective of the urban landscape is not appropriate for the religious space. We therefore suggest a hierarchical and value-oriented planning system for the future development of different types of spaces according to their respective values. However, religious space is more than its spatiality, and the research on religious spaces cannot be separated from the social, economic, and political backgrounds (Kong, 2001).

Therefore, further research should be conducted on the religious spaces in the developing city of Lhasa. Furthermore, protection planning, especially for religious spaces, that is different from common cultural heritage protection is urgently required.


We acknowledge the generous financial support of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 51308463 and No. 51578453) and the research funds provided by the Science and Technology Department of Sichuan Province (No. 2014JY0231).

We also thank LetPub for its linguistic assistance during the preparation of this manuscript.


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