# 58 Teaching at Taizhou Teachers College-Xiahe - Sacred Labrang Monastery


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Asia » China » Gansu » Xiahe
May 1st 2007
Published: May 1st 2007
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Labrang MonasteryLabrang MonasteryLabrang Monastery

Labrang Monastery was founded in 1709 by a local monk from the neighboring town of Ganjia. He later became the first Living Buddha.
Xiahe is a small, but rapidly developing town in the SW of Gansu Province near the border with Qinghai. It is nestled in a beautiful mountain valley and is the location of famous Labrang Monastery. Labrang Monastery is second in size to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, so Xiahe is visited not only by increasing numbers of tourists but also by innumerable Tibetan pilgrims, many of whom have travelled vast distances to do so.

My first visit here was during the Golden week in May (as indicated by the date on this blog). Although not a religious person or a student of Tibetan Buddhism, I spent many a peaceful hour wandering within and around the monastery complex, particularly early in the morning before the hordes of tourists descended. I was fascinated (and humbled) by the dedication and devotion of the brightly coloured pilgrims. Prayer beads in hand, chanting their sutras, they prostrated themselves repeatedly or walked briskly doing their circuits of the sacred kora or individual prayer halls and stupas. Among them were dozens of fuscia-robed monks of all ages scurrying around going about their daily business. All this made for an "other-worldly" atmosphere.

I am currently back
Prayer wheels turningPrayer wheels turningPrayer wheels turning

Hundreds of prayer wheels line 3 sides of the 3km sacred kora around the monastery complex.
in Xiahe with my work colleague Stef, on our way west to Qinghai to experience the Jyekundo Horse Festival, one of the biggest of the Tibetan Horse Festivals. It is therefore timely to share with you my first experiences of this, the biggest monastery town outside of Lhasa. It is the first in a series of five blogs, each with their own theme rather than a chronological account of my experiences here in Xiahe.

I have kept the main body of text short, prefering to add detail to each photograph with it's own particular story, so make sure you view all the photographs for the "full" experience!

So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Xiahe!


Additional photos below
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.....and turning.....and turning
.....and turning

Prayer(Mani in Tibetan) wheels are used to spread spiritual blessings by turning them clockwise as pilgrims circumambulate the sacred kora (circuit around a sacred site).
Eye-catching prayer wheelEye-catching prayer wheel
Eye-catching prayer wheel

These particular prayer wheels are much larger than many I have seen before. They are also wooden,not metal and have brightly coloured spiritual pictures rather than inscriptions of the sacred mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum "
Prayer hall...Prayer hall...
Prayer hall...

One of at least 13 major prayer halls in this complex. Pilgrims come from many places throughout Sichuan, Gansu, Qinghai and Inner Mongolia to circumambulate around some or all of them. A minimum of 3 circuits is considered appropriate.
Ser Kung Golden TempleSer Kung Golden Temple
Ser Kung Golden Temple

One of the biggest drawcards for the visiting tourist. Entry fee is required.
A closer lookA closer look
A closer look

This and other areas such as the main prayer hall and some of the colleges of study are available through one of the "monk" tours. I was happy just to wander around the complex and soak up the atmosphere.
View from the riverView from the river
View from the river

Ser Kung Golden Temple forms a distinctive part of the landscape near the Daxia River in the western part of town.
Early morning call to prayerEarly morning call to prayer
Early morning call to prayer

Too difficult to see from this angle, but enormous sacred horns mounted on the roof are used to call monks to prayer at various times of the day. This shot was taken in the early morning.
All at prayer...All at prayer...
All at prayer...

This group of monks were praying in a simpler style near the residences. Boots are normally removed before entering.
Early morning offeringEarly morning offering
Early morning offering

Juniper bush is burnt as an offering to Chenrezig, Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Early morning strollEarly morning stroll
Early morning stroll

The casual stroll of these monks contrasts sharply with the focussed striding of the pilgrims.
Sue at LabrangSue at Labrang
Sue at Labrang

Neither monk nor pilgrim, but enjoying the atmosphere, never the less.
Colourful doorColourful door
Colourful door

The wonderful colours and amazing detail of the artwork is very impressive.
Lions protect the entranceLions protect the entrance
Lions protect the entrance

A distinctive Han Chinese feel to an otherwise Tibetan complex.
Intricate carvingIntricate carving
Intricate carving

The rebuilding/restoration of buildings after the ravages of the Cultural Revolution is reigniting the skills of old.
Tibetans love colourTibetans love colour
Tibetans love colour

The painted version.
Peek through the doorPeek through the door
Peek through the door

My favourite early morning "ritual" while in town was to wander aimlessly through the monastery complex and peek through the doors to reveal the "secrets" within.
Yellow Hat monks socializing outside the main sutra (prayer) hallYellow Hat monks socializing outside the main sutra (prayer) hall
Yellow Hat monks socializing outside the main sutra (prayer) hall

There are currently about 2000 monks living in the Labrang Monastery. At one time there were over 4000 but their numbers were decimated during the Cultural Revolution.They are slowly rebuilding.
DevotionDevotion
Devotion

Whether traditional or modern, Tibetans are a devoutly spiritual people.
Pilgrim prostrates herselfPilgrim prostrates herself
Pilgrim prostrates herself

A common sight is to see pilgrims of all ages prostrate themselves before one or more of the sacred prayer halls . Some even circumambulate the sacred kora in this fashion. Others still do a pilgrimage all the way from their home town in this manner. Special knee and arm guards are available for sale nearby. Amazing dedication!


30th July 2007

Fascinating as always!
Really enjoying the journey with you! Riveting as usual.... take care Chickybabe!! Vickster

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