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Published: June 12th 2007
This is as far as Tibetan culture I will experience on this trip, lots of Tibetan monks and their monasteries in the Gansu province but still not exactly Tibet yet, I feel the Tibetan vibe here, monks walking all over town, in taxis, in pedicabs and as we found out also oggling at scantily clad women at an impromptu veriety/model show at one cul de sac hotel near ours. We would have stayed bit longer but the bad singing from a teenybopper lad made our ears bleed. Anyway I love this town despite the weather being gloomy, rainy and cold and hot water at the hotel only from 6pm til 9am. We made a visit to the Labrang monastery and the surrounding area, quite impressive architecture, the devotion the locals have for their religion is admirable, some making pilgrimages, prostrating themselves every few steps of the way, some bring Yak butter and offer it at the altars. We also made a trip to the ancient city wall ruins of Ganjia Baijiao city, we were told the mud walls were constructed 2000 years ago, I am sure it has been fixed/retouched every few years but still to me quite impressive, to
get there we have to drive through the grasslands of green valleys, high winding gravel roads, took almost an hour and as usual fell asleep on our way there so missed most of the scenery. We stopped at a small monastery called Tsewey, here we were allowed to take photos of the inside of the monastery, we would have stayed longer but the cold rains started to pelt us persistently so we head back to town. Today is chill time for me, as I write this blog at an internet cafe, lots of young local kids playing games in the computer some in grade school , some young monks. Some kids even have taken to smoking, to me looks like 10 years old, so unfortunate to smoke at such a young age, and quite annoying, I will reek of second hand smoke when I am done here!
Xiahe (2900m) is an easily accessible village to admire the Tibetan culture outside Tibet. If you pass Lanzhou on your silk road itinerary, make sure that you have two days to make an excursion to Xiahe, a five-hour bus trip from Lanzhou.
Your eyes would be refreshed in Xiahe by
striking crimson robe and yellow hats of monks, as well as beautiful Tibetan architecture, green grasslands and clear blue sky. The rich color contrasts vividly to the monotonous color of ruins and Gobi desert on the silk road.
A brief introduction of Xiahe and Labrang Monastery:
The Labrang Monastery is located at the foot of the Phoenix Mountain northwest of Xiahe County in Gannan Tibetan Nationality Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province. A propitious place in the hearts of the Tibetan, it stands by the Daxia River and faces the Dragon Mountain.
As for the Dragon and Phoenix Mountains, there is a beautiful legend. A long time ago, this place was a boundless sea. After countless changes, mountains and lands appeared. One day, a golden-wing phoenix flew here and rested on one of the mountains in the south. It was so thirsty that it drank all the water; thus the sea dried up. A dragon in the sea was greatly shocked, so it cavorted out of the water, which led to the emergence of a spring at the site where the phoenix drank. As the spring water effused more and more, the Daxia River was formed.
So the dragon became the Dragon Mountain and the phoenix became the Phoenix Mountain. And the Daxia River flowed from west to east through the two mountains, eroding the hollow into a basin. The Labrang Monastery was built on the Zhaxiqi (means auspiciousness) shoal which is in the north of the basin.
The architectural layout of the Labrang Monastery belongs to the Tibetan style and the construction patterns are mostly Tibetan, Han's mode and a compound style of both Han's and Tibetan. The symbols of the whole construction are the White Towers both in the northeast and in the northwest. The grand sutra and Buddha halls are located in the northwestern part centered around the Grand Sutra Hall. Other halls spread in a shape similar to a crescent moon.
The Grand Sutra Hall is the dominant place for the religious activities of the Labrang Monastery and for the adherents' worshipping. On the inside walls there are portraits of Buddha and built-in shrines of Buddha and bookcases. The elegantly decorated hall is splendid enough to give you real enjoyment.
Located in the northwest of the Grand Sutra Hall, the Grand Golden Tile Hall is the highest building in
the Labrang Monastery and is strongly tinged with a Nepalese flavor. It is six-storied and the roof is covered with bronze bricks that are washed by gold. In front of the hall gate, a stele hangs on which the Han, Tibetan, Manchu and Mongolian characters were written by the Emperor Jiaqing (1760-1820) of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Inside the hall there is a bronze figure of Buddha created by Nepalese artisans.
The Labrang Monastery boasts tens of thousands of statues of Buddha made of gold, silver, copper, and aluminum. There are statues with ivory, sandalwood, jade, crystal and clay as the basic materials. These Buddha statues are all lifelike with kind-looking faces, which give you a real enjoyment of beauty. In addition, the monastery possesses many Buddha hats and many Buddhist treasures adorned with pearls, jadeite, agate and diamonds.
The Labrang Monastery holds seven large-scale summon ceremonies a year, among which the Summons Ceremony in the first lunar month and the Buddhist Doctrine Explaining Ritual in the seventh lunar month are the grandest ones.
Things to do:
You can walk the 3km kora, the circumambulation route leading around the pilgrimage points in Labrang Monastery: Chortens, Gompas,
and hundreds of prayer wheels. In the dusk, monks, nuns, nomads and farmers would come out to fulfill their daily kora.
" Circumambulation is a traditional Buddhist practice and has been part of Tibetan pilgrimage and veneration for more than a thousand years "
Ganjia Bajiao City:
The Bajiao relics are located 34 kilometers away from Xiahe. It was built during the Han Dynasty in rectangular pattern breaking the square style of the ancient Chinese city design. It's length is 2193.4 metres. The city is surrounded by two walls The length of the remaining outer wall is 1080meters. It illustrates an ancient combination of village and fields walled for defensive purposes, this is the only example of such form in China.
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