I did a tour with Nomad Travel, a tour company based in Xiahe, to go to the grasslands. it was absolutely amazing!! The grasslands were so wonderful, green grass, blue sky, and the mountains were dotted with sheep and yaks. We visited a nomad family in a tent, and it was so much fun. The people were really friendly and we were given yak milk tea and tsampa: roasted barley, the staple food of Tibetans. We were allowed to take as many pictures as we wanted and we played with the kids. After the visit we took a hike through the hills on the grasslands. We then had lunch in a very strange little town, where everybody stared at us. It was a great day, with a lovely guide who told so many stories about the Tibetan way of life. Wonderful day!
The Labrang Monastery is one of the 6 great monasteries of the Gelukpa (Yellow Hat) sect. In terms of size, Labrang is second only to the Potala Palace in Lhasa and it is so called from the Tibetan "Labrang" meaning the place where the Buddhist Palace stands.
Labrang was built in 1709 and had relative peace until the 1920s when the Muslims and Tibetans had numerous battles around the region and again during the cultural revolution (1966-76) there was chaos and many of the 4000 monks disappeared and many of the temples and buildings were closed.
Today you can "circumnubulate" the monastery spinning prayer wheels like the pilgrims and monks and appreciate the stupas and temples. You can also climb into the hills to avoid the crowds and wander in the peace and quiet.
The best time to visit is during Tibetan festivals but you will enjoy the monastery at any time of year.
A few minutes by bicycle and by foot from Xiahe away and you'll find yourselve in the middle of the graslands. On first glance you only see green gras until the horizon, but you look closer you see all this beautiful flowers in red, yellow and blue. And between them there are tiny little strawberries, which taste very sweet.
This temple is one of the most important Tibetan temples. Inside its halls you find a lot of wonderful statues of Lord Buddha. The walls and columns are very colorful.
The monastery complex dominates the northern village. The white walls and golden roofs feature a blend of Tibetan and Han architectural styles. The monastery contains 18 halls, six institutes of learning, a golden stupa, a sutra debate place, and nearly 60,000 sutras. There are more than 2000 monks in residence. It has a Buddhist museum with a large collection of Buddha statues, sutras and murals. In addition, a large amount of Tibetan language books, including history is available for purchase, together with medicines, calendars, music and art objects.
The monastery today is an important place for Buddhist ceremonies and activities. From 4th to 17th January and 26th June to 15th July (these dates may change according to the lunar calendar), the great Buddhist ceremony will be held with Buddha-unfolding, sutra enchanting, praying, sutra debates, etc.
The Labrang Lamasery is located in Xiahe County of the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province. First built in 1709 by Living Buddha Awangzongzhe, Jiamuyang 1,it is one of the Largest Lamaseries of Tibetan Buddhism in China and national monuments selected for sepecial presenation. There are six institutes in the lamasery, that is, the Wensi Institute which studies Xianzong(exoterica Buddhism) and excels at religious philosophy, the Upper and Lower Xubu Institutes which study Mizong(esoteric Buddhism), The Jingang Institute, the Shilun Institute which studies astronomy, geography and mathematics and compiles the Tibetan calendar and the almanac, and the Medical Institute which studies Tibetan medicine,Lamas of the lamasery collect medical herbs themselves and prepare medicines. They Practise medicine and do good work at the same time. Putting stress on studies Lamas and scholars. Their writing and Malanmu Festivalin the first month of the Lunar year. The Festival in the seventh month of the Lunar year are respected and well received by personalities of various circles.
Well, this is probably the reason you came to Xiahe in the first place. The experience is somewhat odd, though, as you have a mix of monks, pilgrims and tourists. The latter can be really annoying, getting in the way of the pilgrims so they can have pictures taken of them standing by prayer wheels and other such selfishness. The monks generally either ignore tourists or get a little testy, even with the ones who are not intrusive. So definitely mind what the monks tell you and stay out of areas they don't want you in. You can take tours of the monastery for a fee, but you'll soak up more atmosphere without 20 other shuttersnappers and bullhorn-toting guide. Avoid weekends if possible.
Around the monastry of Labrang ist this 3 km pilgrim walk. You can walk with dozens of Tibetans along it and turn hundreds of colourfull praying wheels.
The setting is great, but much better than that was getting in touch with the local people. I'll never forget these three elderly ladies, sitting next to me near the prayerwheels, offering me some of their food and being absolutly amazed that I have 5 toes on eacht foot as well as they do... at least that's what i guessed, they were saying, as they were counting my toes and afterwards showing me the number 5 with their fingers.
The kora is the 3 kilometer (2miles) long pilgrim route around the monastery. In the outside walls of the monastery complex you will find several hundred brightly colored prayerwheels. Turn all the wheels while walking clockwise around the monastery.
The only thing we were allowed to take pictures of inside the monastery were the yakbutter sculptures.
Butter sculpture is an ancient Tibetan Buddhist art. The sculptures are traditionally made with yak butter. They are traditionally made every Losar, the Tibetan New Year, and for the Butter Sculpture Festival.
To make butter sculptures you need yakbutter (or any other fat), tsampa, color (any bright powder). The basic colors are red, orange, yellow, green, and blue.
Be at the assembly hall around 11:00 to see the monks arriving for the ceremony at 11:30. They all gather on the steps of the assembly hall with their yellow caps on. At 11:30 they remove their shoes and enter the hall for the ceremony.
There are signs stating you are not allowed to take pictures. But some monks actually ask for a picture. On the other hand there are monks that will get very angry and will take your film out of your camera. The safe way is always ask before you take a picture.
We put a short movie of the monks on this website: http://www.china-tibet.greatnow.com
The Labrang Monastery is one of the six main monasteries of the Gelukpa (Yellow hat sect). It was founded in 1709 by the monk E'Ang Zonghe.
The monastery contains 18 halls, 6 institutes of learning, a golden stupa, a sutra debate, and almost 60,000 sutras. Over 1,000 monks live here.
You can visit the monastery on a tour, english guided tours are availlable in the morning at 10:30 and the afternoon at 15:30. A monk will show you around, it is not allowed to take pictures inside, except for the room with the yakbutter sculptures.
Tibetan monks and pilgrims can be seen walking clockwise around various temples or around the entire monastry ground of this Yellow Hat sect Monastery.
Some devotees are prostrating, i.e. doing the three-steps-one-bow.
There are prayer wheels at certain sections surrounding the monastery ground and one should walk CLOCK-WISE around the ground and spin the prayer wheels CLOCK-WISE.
Gorgeous atmosphere, especially during festivals.
When we walked back to the hotel in the late afternoon, we saw a some monks, all walking in the same direction and we heard horns and cimbals. In front of a door we saw a lot of monks gathering. They beckoned us and invited us to enter the courtyard.
We saw 20 monks dancing, turning around, moving their arms high and low Their colorful clothes were moving like fluttering wings. They looked like "red derwishes in slow motion''.
There were also 20 monks, buzzing and humming in two voices and playing the cimbals. Sometimes two monks also played the large horns. It was breathtaking. We felt very honoured to attend these ceremonial exercises.
We followed also a second part of the 3 KM long pilgrimsroute around the monastery, this time at the south side of the mainstreet.
Here we saw very long halls with hundreds of colorfully painted prayerwheels. In between were also some larger halls with giant prayerwheels.
The pilgrims who walked the pilgrims route clockwise turned all the hundreds of prayerwheels on their way, to bring them luck.
Not only the inside of the temples are beautifully decorated, it's also worth to have a look at the roofs with gilded tiles.
Walking the path along the slope of the Dragon hills you have the gilded rooftops at eye height. On the rooftops you can see the gilded bronze Dharma wheels of life, amrta kalasas or nectar vessels, pendant streamers, Boddhisattvas and miniature animals.
On the picture the double gilded roof of Sakyamuni Temple or Small Gold Tile Monastery.