Built on a hillside with more than 80 meditation caves, Drak Yerpa is described as the "life tree" or spiritual axis of Lhasa. The site had a powerful spiritual heritage, having been visited by Songsten Gampo, Padmasambhava, Yeshe Tsoygel, Padampa Sanggye, and Asisha Before the Cultural Revolution is was the home of several hundred hermits, monks, and nuns. Tucci in 1949 describes it: "Yerpa appeared suddenly before my eyes as a bend of the road, a cascade of small white buildings along steep overgrown cliffs. One could have thought one was not in Tibet. Giant junipers and tufts of rhododendron topped a thick tangle of undergrowth, brushwood and grass victoriously fighting the hard barrenness of rocks. The cliffs were riddled with burrows and caves, some of which were so high up on the fact of the abrupt hill that it would have been risky to climb them."
Among the caves on the hillside is Chogyel Puk, where Songsten Gampo meditated. Nearby is Lhakhang Puk, where the monk Lhalungpa Pelgi Dorje (now identified with Tulsi Rimpoche of Tupten Choling monastery in nepal) hid after assassinating the Bonpo king Langdama in 842. Lhalungpa's hat was enshrined in the cave until 1959. Directly above this cave is Dawai Puk, associated with Padmasambhava.
Although it could not have been a military threat to the Chinese, Drak Yerpa was terribly damaged during the Cultural Revolution. Its monasteries were destroyed, its caves were defaced, and its trees and shrubs uprooted. Today, hermits are gradually returning to the cave and its shrines are being restored.