Most Important Temples to Visit in China (IV): Labrang Monastery
Most Important Temples to visit in China: Labrang Monastery
The largest Tibetan lamasery outside of Tibet proper, Labrang Monastery is also the most important in Amdo (northern Tibet). Founded in 1709, it is renowned as both an important pilgrimage site and a monastic university. In total, the monastery is comprised of 18 main halls, six colleges, dormitories and even a printing press; it was once home to several thousand monks, though today the number is believed to be closer to 1,000.
Walking the nearly two-mile (3km) pilgrimage circuit (kora) and spinning the countless prayer wheels along the way together with sweet old grandmothers, rough-looking nomads and monks in fuchsia-colored robes is an experience you won't soon forget. Some buildings are open to visit, but for access to most, you'll need to join a tour.
Labrang is located in the town of Xiahe, which has always been a cultural crossroads. Even today, the area is a mix of Tibetans, Chinese and Hui (Chinese Muslims).
A popular half-day trip from Xiahe is to the Ganjia Grasslands, where there are grazing yaks, a few villages, and two monasteries.
Most Important Temples to visit in China: Labrang Monastery – Headaches
Unfortunately, Xiahe is not always open to foreign travelers; you should check up on the current situation before you go. Chances are, if there is unrest elsewhere in Tibet or a major political anniversary of some sort, it will be closed.
Most Important Temples to visit in China: Labrang Monastery – How do I get here?
Buses run between Xiahe and Lanzhou (the capital of Gansu province) throughout the day. Depending on whether or not the bus is full, it can take anywhere from 4.5 to six hours. There is an onward connection to the town of Langmusi on the Sichuan border.