Kumbum Monastery (Ta'er Si) now costs 80 RMB. 40 RMB if you can produce a student card. We didn't get checked to see if our student cards were our own, although they were. If you're not keen on seeing the various "halls" and just want to soak up the atmosphere (and vehicle exhausts), then sneak in by the "exit" door which's to the left of the "entry" door. Some of the "halls" weren't guarded so you could get in for free.
Right after we entered, we were surprised to see that there was a Construction Bank of China ATM built into the wall of the building, right beside the "exit" door!
If you don't buy the admission ticket, and still want to see the yak-butter sculptures, the monks guarding that hall want 20 RMB for that.
Yak butter sculptures are one of the things that Kumbum Monastery is renowned for.
These life-size and life-like sculptures, once made, are on display for a full year. New sculptures are unveiled every year in winter around Losar (Tibetan New Year). They're behind glass and enjoy aircon to prevent them from melting, as...
Yak butter melts around 17-18 degrees Celsius. Qinghai's winter is one of the most severe in Greater Tibet. The lamas making the yak butter sculptures have to constantly dip their hands in ice water to keep their temperature down for fear of melting the yak butter. Consequently, they're always freezing and can't feel what they're sculpting -- so the result is as much a feat of perseverance and religious belief as much as skill.
The group of sculptures facing the main entrance are 2nd best; the ones facing towards the back wall are the best. Who cares, they all look amazing to me.
Photos and smoking aren't allowed, but if you're discreet and don't use flash you can get some photos anyway.
Without going to Tibet this is the best glimpse of the high Tibetan Plateau ("Roof of the World"), with a vast inland sea surrounded by verdant pastures and snow capped mountains. At more than 10000 feet elevation, the view of sky and a vast open space is stunning.
Ta’er Si Monastery is one of the six great monasteries of the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism and it is located at Huangzhong, 26km from Xining.
While more touristy than Labrang Monastery, the temples and monasteries are very well-restored here and in one temple, there is a display of two huge, amazing and very beautiful YAK BUTTER SCULPTURES of Buddhism-themed stories, cooled by Mitshibishi air-con.
Each year, the yak butter sculptures are melted away and recarved. I was thinking how can anyone BEAR to melt down this wonderful sculpture which someone had painstakingly sculpted. But this is in line with Buddhism teachings of 'Nothing is permanent'.