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Nyemo Tunba – Birthplace of Tibetan Incense

Nyemo Tunba (尼木吞巴) Scenic Area, a small village in Nyemo County is the birthplace of Tibetan Incense and famous for the hometown of Thonmi Sambhota, the creator of Tibetan Characters. Enjoying a superior geographic location by the side of 318 National Highway between Lhasa to Shigatse, Nyemo Tunba still keeps a natural way to make incense and this intact craftsmanship can trace back to 1300 years ago, which is listed into state-level intangible cultural heritage. Walking along streams and bridges, there are many spots for visitors to experience its procedures. Besides, in Tunba village you can also experience a profound humanity atmosphere by visiting the first Tibetan Characters Museum to suck up the local culture and trace back to Sontzen gampo period to enjoy the literal glamour.

Nyemo Tunba Facts


#22 of 34 Attractions in Tibet

Four Seasons
Tibetan Village, Cultural Site
3,809 meters
Nyemo County, Lhasa City
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About Thonmo Sambhota & Tibetan Incense

Thonmo Sambhota, born in 618 AD was the creator of Tibetan Characters and a great translator. After unifying Tubo, Sontzen gampo was eager to set up local characters in Tibet. Therefore, in the late 7th century, sixteen brilliant young men were sent to India to learn its language and writing words. Due to the big difference in climate, fifteen of them died and only one person was survived. His name was Thonmo Sambhota. No fear of exotic beasts, he was immersed in the study and mastered the quintessence of Indian Buddhism and the Sanskrit.

With years of learning, Thonmo went back to Tibet and created the Tibetan alphabet combined with local language features and by some reference of Sanskrit. At the same time, he wrote eight books about Tibetan Characters and translated over 20 Sanskrit scriptures into Tibetan language, which became an important part of Tibetan culture and basic knowledge to learn in that time, even in today. In order to honor his contribution and express a highly respect, his statue was enshrined in Jakhang Temple, in the side of Sontzen gampo's statue.

From the local story, Thonmo Sambhota was the inventor of Tibetan Incense as well. Backing to hometown, he created a way to make raw material by putting wooden mill into water and taking full use of the hydraulic power to grind cedarwood into mud and this process is still used today.

Tibetan Incense as a way to express pious belief by believers is mainly used to worship Buddha, especially among Buddhist activities. Meanwhile it is also a kind of treatment in Tibetan medicine by adding some natural medical herbs and very efficient to kill bacterium, prevent colds, clear air and improve sleep, etc. Therefore, Tibetan Incense can be seen in most Tibetan houses for daily using as well. With a large range of usage, Tibetan Incense made from Nyemo Tunba is widely transported to most inland cities and nearby countries.

Nyemo Tunba
Statue of Thonmi Sambhota
Nyemo Tunba
Tibetan Incense Made by Traditional Way

What to See at Nyemo Tunba

Noted for the environmental handcrafted Tibetan Incense, Tunba Village is more like a workshop with most villagers engaged in the incense-making work. Here you can view a whole natural making process. Besides, the Thonmo Sambhota Former Residence and the first Tibetan Character Museum will give you more insight of Tibetan humanity culture.

Water Corridor

Water Corridor is the place where to make raw material of Tibetan Incense. Along the small path, there is a stream full of gurgling water running to the wooden mill in the end side. Here you can view the original way to change cedarwood into mud by the power of water, with a similar theory of wind-energy generation. Standing at the viewing site, you can watch vividly how the water drives the wooden mill to grin, which is totally original and natural.

Note: there is a courtyard nearby for local Tibetans to divide the mud into bricks after a time of exposing in the air. By melting the mud bricks, there are some other auxiliary fragrant materials added in. Then a typical tool will be used to make them into pieces of cylindric items, like round-shaped noodles, which is the final of the incense. With different ingredients, the incense will be presented in different colors.

First Tibetan Character Museum

With a traditional Tibetan construction craft, it is the first theme museum to display Tibetan writing words. Some contemporary calligraphy works are displayed here, as well as some artificial objects of Tibetan old calligraphy supplies. In the main hall, there is a Thangka mural depict the whole life of Thonmi Sambhota from the birth to death. Besides, you can find a wax statue to show vividly the scene of how Srongtsen Gampo learned Tibetan words from Thonmi Sambhota.

Former Residence of Thonmi Sambhota (Tunba Manor)

With a long history of over 1300 years, the site was the place where recorded the childhood of Thonmi Sambhota. As one of the noble manors, it was a two-layer wooden structure and the ground floor was used for serf’s house and some animals’ living. The second floor was the living area for the lord’s family, including scripture hall with some precious murals, bed rooms, barn, etc. Here you can appreciate the traditional noble architecture and know some stories about Thonmi Sambhota.

Nyemo Tunba
Water Mill in Nyemo Tunba
Nyemo Tunba
A work is making Tibetan Incense
Nyemo Tunba
Tunba Manor

How to Get to Nyemo Tunba

Located by the road between Lhasa and Shigatse (a section of No. 318 National Way), Nyemo Tunba can reached easily. Traveling with a private car is the best transportation to Nyemo Tunba because you can enjoy the flexible time and take a stop on the way for sightseeing. Some people interested in Tibetan incense will take Nyemo Tunba as an additional attraction after their Lhasa city tour, but most tourists visit Nyemo Tunba on their way back to Lhasa from Shigatse.

● 110 km away from Lhasa, 2.5 hours' driving

● 150 km away from Shigatse, 3 hours' driving

Tunba Village
Nyemo Tunba Location Map

Useful Travel Tips

● Any time to visit Nyemo Tunba is suitable to join in the local tradition and view the incense making.

● There is a small path to walk before visit Tunba village, which is worthwhile to enjoy the nature alongside and have fresh air.

● If you are interested about Tibetan language and writing, the museum is a must see to find more Tibetan calligraphy.

● For those who want to buy some Tibetan Incense, there are some stalls in the village offered the selling.

● If you are interested about the Tibetan Woodblock Printing, the Pusong Town with 30 km away Tunba is another featured site in Nyemo County to explore how Buddhist sutras are engraved.

Nyemo Tunba
A Tibetan women is selling Tibetan Incense

How to Plan A Tibet Tour

Tibet is too vast to be visited in one single trip, but planning ahead of time can make most of your holiday. A classic Tibet tour always takes about 4 ~ 8 days. Apart from 2 days for arrival and departure, it usually needs 2 other days to explore majestic Potala Palace and other landmarks in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. With a day trip’s distance from Lhasa, Namtso Lake is another perfect tour extension if you visit Tibet from May to October.

☛ 4 Days Holy City Lhasa Private Tour - Heart of Tibet

☛ 5 Days Lhasa City and Holy Lake Namtso Tour

To explore further, it’s strongly recommended to travel from Lhasa to Mount Everest via Gyantse and Shigatse, which usually needs 4 more days. It is an unforgettable sightseeing trip with lots of attractions to visit, such as Yamdrok Lake, Karola Glacier, Kumbum Stupa of Palcho Monastery, Tashilhunpo Monastery, etc. Of course, the biggest draw must be gazing upon the unparalleled north face of the world’s highest peak – Mount Everest.

☛ 6 Days Lhasa Gyantse Shigatse Historical Tour

☛ 8 Days Everest Base Camp Tour - Top of the World

☛ 9 Days Tibet Discovery Tour plus Everest and Namtso Expedition

For Buddhist followers and hiking lovers, you are suggested to travel to Ngari to join the kora around the holy Mt. Kailash and sacred Lake Manasarovar, which usually takes about 5 ~ 8 more days from Lhasa. The wild nature of Ngari is spectacular as well.

☛ 13 Days Mt. Kailash & Lake Manasarovar Trekking Tour

☛ 16 Days Mt.Kailash Pilgrimage Private Tour

If you have your own needs or interest, just feel free to contact us to customize a trip of your own!

Potala Palace Lhasa, Namtso, Mount Everest and Ngari are four most popular destinations in Tibet

Recommended Tour Packages

Escorted by a skilled private drivers and companied by a professional local tour guide to organize all the activities, all you have to do is to enjoy your fantastic Tibet journey. Time can never be wasted waiting for a group, hopping on and off buses or negotiating unfamiliar destinations.

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