The area is famous for the Yangbajain hot springs, which have been harnessed to produce much of the electricity for the capital Lhasa. There is a thermoelectric power plant on the edge of the Yangbajain hot springs field covering 20–30 square kilometers. The thermoelectric power plant was established in 1976, and the first development of geothermal power not only in Tibet but in the whole of China.
The Yangbajain hot springs field is at an altitude of 4290–4500 m which makes it the highest altitude set of hot springs in China, and possibly the world. The water emerges at 30 degrees C-84 degrees C, which is above the boiling point at that altitude.
There is a remarkable Tibetan myth about Yangbajain. Thousands of years ago, before the sky and the earth were separated, the whole world was in total darkness and people living at the foot of Mount Nyainqêntanglha were in despair. However, one morning, a golden phoenix flew to Yangbajain, determined to create brightness by sacrificing itself. It supposedly threw one of its bright eyes into the hands of a fairy which released a blanket of light through a lamp into the air as a blessing to the place. The snow capped peaks of nearby Mount Nyainqêntanglha appeared; meadows that resembled a giant green carpet emerged; and happiness and prosperity came to the Tibetan people. However, a wicked man near Yangbajain coveted the lamp. He was possessed by an evil witch man to sharpen his hatred into an arrow to shoot the lamp. The lamp was broken into many different pieces, and as the pieces of the lamp fell onto the ground, they turned into hot springs and burned the wicked man to death. People believed that the hot springs were the angry tears of the fairy.
The YBJ International Cosmic Ray Observatory (羊八井国际宇宙线观测站) is located at in Yangbajing valley of Tibetan highland, a site chosen for its high altitude.