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31/07/2013

The general information about Xiahe

Overview

Xiahe is a tiny, bustling town nestles in a mountain valley at an elevation of 2,900m in Ganan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, southwest Gansu.

The town was divided into two sections, primarily Hui (Muslim) and Han Chinese at its eastern end, changing abruptly to a Tibetan town as you climb westward to the gorgeous gilded roofs of the vast Labrang Monastery. Bent and walnut-visaged Tibetan pilgrims make you welcome on the 3km circuit around the monastery's perimeter.

It is not just the amazing sights of the Labrang Monastery and the Sangke Grassland that will enamour you with Xiahe, but also the vibrant atmosphere. The locals and nomads in the village live a laid-back lifestyle. The population here is made up of 45% Tibetan, 45% Han and 10% Hui, making this a good place to behold monks in bright purple, yellow and red, nomads clad in sheepskins, and the Hui Muslims with skull caps and wispy beards. The town is also a thoroughfare for inbound pilgrims from Qinghai and Tibet.

For backpackers, Xiahe is the traffic hub either northwards to Gansu (some places of it can be visited for Silk Road tour) or southwards to Sichuan.

Best time to go: Summer

 

How long: 2~3days

Getting there and away

 

There is no railway lines anywhere close to Xiahe or the neighboring area. The only viable mode of transport to/from this Tibetan town is by bus.

From Lanzhou: a few direct buses run to Xiahe daily, departing 6:30~7:30 and 14:00. But if there is only a few passengers, the driver may "sell" you at Linxia to the Linxia-Xiahe buses when stopping for lunch.

 

If you missed the direct bus, you can take a Lanzhou-Linxia bus from either the east or south bus station in Lanzhou. From Linxia, buses to Xiahe departing every 40 minutes between 6:30 and 4:30pm, 3hrs.

For those from Sichuan Zoige, you will need to come via Hezuo. Catch the 6:20am bus from Zoige to Hezuo, via Langmusi. Buses to Xiahe from Hezuo (2.5hrs) depart frequently before 4pm. There is also a direc bus from Langmusi to Xiahe.

Leaving - The daily bus leaving Xiahe for Lanzhou departs in early morning. You can also go to Linxia,there are 2~3 buses per hour to Lanzhou between 6:30am and 4pm, about the same timetable for buses to Hezuo.

Xiahe is also a starting point for travelers heading for Qinghai (famous tourist destination for China vacation deals). One daily bus leaves for Tongren (5hrs). However, due to poor road conditions, do not count too much on the punctuality of the bus, which is sometimes even cancelled. If you plan to go southward to Sichuan province, you can first take the morning bus to Hezuo and then change.

Getting around

3-wheel motor-cab or bike. Bike renting service available at most tourist restaurants and hotels. The main Monastery Restaurant and the rental shop opposite offer the lowest rate at Y2/hour or Y10/day. For any additional travel-related information, head to the Youyi Hotel, who have travel services.

Attractions

 

Labrang Monastery - Built in 1709 by a monk from the nearby village of Ganjia, who became the first Living Buddha of the monastery.

 

Situated at the foot of the Phoenix Mountain, 1.5km west of the Xiahe bus station, along the main road in town. In terms of size it is second only to the Potala Palace in Lhasa and it is so called by the Tibetan "Labrang", meaning the "place where the Buddhist Palace stands".

 

The place remained in relative peace until the 1920s when the Muslims and Tibetans had numerous battles in and around this region, turf wars that were both bloody and prolonged. Again in the Cultural Revolution, the region was in chaos. Many of the over 4,000 monks "disappeared", the monastery was temporarily shut down, and was not reopened until 1980.

 

Nowadays there are around 2,000 monks, mainly from Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Inner Mongolia. The present head monk, 3rd in religious importance behind the Dalai and Panchen Lamas, is the sixth incarnation of the Jiemuyang.

 

The monastery consists of 18 resplendent halls, 6 prestigious Buddhist institutes and about 500 bedrooms for both the living Buddhas and ordinary monks. In total the monastery holds over 60,000 Tibetan sutras and thousands of rare Buddhist relics, including a statue of the most famous Tibetan king, Songtsen gampo.

 

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.

 

Admission Fee: 41 RMB (Chinese currency)

 

Sangke Grasslands - Lying about 14km west of Xiahe,it enjoys a good reputation in the northwest Tibetan region for its excellent pasture and frequent magnificent Buddhist ceremonies. Belonging to the meadow steppe and bordered by the Daxia River, Sangke Grassland is at an elevation of 3000m with an area of 70sqkm.

 

The grassland is named for the summer-blooming Sangke flowers that form a natural carpet extending to the far horizons. Reflecting sky and mountains, the Daxia River twists through grass and earth like an undulating silk belt. Countless sheep, yaks and tents are visible over the prairie.

 

Visitors can travel by bicycle or on horseback. It is possible to stay overnight with a local family or to rent a tent and experience Tibetan food such as yak-butter tea, stuffed steamed buns, mutton, and Zanba (a traditional Tibetan staple food of roasted highland barley flour).

You can obtain other information via China tour guide.

 

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