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.
Labrang Monastery / Sangke Grassland
Best time to go: Summer
Getting there and away
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
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. 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
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
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.
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.
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).