Do you like Buddhist Culture? Do you want to find some quiet and cultural places? Then you should definitely visit Xiahe in Gansu Province. I visited the place early China this year during my travel in China and it was a very special cultural experience.
My friends and I took the bus from Xining, Qinghai Province to Xiahe. The roads are not in a good state but the bus drivers are very experienced and we arrived safe in Xiahe. It is also possible to get there out of Lanzhou, the capital city of Gansu Province. However it is only possible to go by bus or car to Xiahe as there is neither an airport nor a train station.
The Xiahe area was long part of the Tibetan region of Amdo. Therefore Xiahe’s population is 50 % Tibetan, 40 % Han and 10 % Hui. The Labrang Monastery shows the division between the eastern quarter of the mainly Han and Hui Chinese and the Tibetan village to the west.
There are a lot of visitors that come to Xiahe such as backpackers, students, wanderers etc. However most of the visitors are rural Tibetans, who come to this place to pray, prostrate themselves and seek spiritual fulfillment at the holy Labrang Monastery and on the pilgrim path.
The Labrang Monastery was founded in 1709 and it is said that it is the third in the Tibetan world. Once over 4000 monks lived here. Today there are about 1800 monks living in the Monastery. In addition to the prayer halls, living quaters of the monks and chapels, the Monastery is also home to six institutes, which explore esoteric Buddhism, medicine, theology, astrology and law.
The Monastery is surrounded by a pilgrim path which is called “kora”. The kora is over 3 kilometers long and is walked by a lot of pilgrims throughout the year. The pilgrims mainly are from Amdo and they are wearing the traditional red blanket-coat. The kora is flanked by hundreds of prayer wheels which are rotated by the pilgrims who walk the path clockwise as custom requires. Walking the pilgrim path is a good way to explore the Monastery and also gives you a great cultural experience.
The Labrang Monastery and the pilgrim path are always full of life. Monks are walking everywhere, pilgrims going on the pilgrim’s route, few tourists make pictures and sometimes you even can see young monks playing football. Although the Monastery is separated from Xiahe downtown, the monks of all ages can also be seen walking through the city.
We also visited the Labrang Monastery and then walked a part on the pilgrim path. The hundreds of prayer wheels with pilgrims rotating them looked amazing and made the atmosphere very special. While walking it silent and you have time to think and go into yourself. The scenery which you get to see while walking on the path is stunning as the city of Xiahe is surrounded by mountains.
So if you are interested in Buddhism and a quiet, nice and small place you should definitely visit Xiahe while you are travelling in China.