Labrang Monastery

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Labrang Monastery བླ་བྲང་བཀྲ་དགོན་པ་ is the largest monastery in the traditional Tibetan region of Amdo. Established in 1709, Labrang housed over 4000 monks at its peak, but now only has around 1500 monks with another couple of hundred lay students. Located in the Gansu Part of Amdo, Labrang is considered the cultural heart of Amdo Tibetan culture along with nearby town of Rebkong. Labrang is one of the “Great Six” Gelukpa sect monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism.

A monk walking around Labrang Monastery

The Golden Stupa at Labrang Monastery during the summer time

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Nomad tents on the grasslands outside of Labrang/Xiahe

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Main road going through the monastery

Labrang Monastery is located in Xiahe county, known in Tibetan as Sang Chu བསང་ཆུ་. The town lies along the Da Xia (Sang Chu) River, which is a tributary of the Yellow River. The town of Xiahe is approximately 50% Tibetan with the remaining 50% being mostly Han Chinese and Hui Muslims. The eastern part of the city is predominantly Chinese and is well developed. It contains several large hotels for government officials and Chinese tourists. Labrang Monastery lies in the middle of town. The western part of town is nearly all Tibetans, many of whom live in small, traditional style Tibetan homes. Most foreign travelers prefer to stay in the area near to where the monastery begins. There are several good Tibetan owned hotels in this area as well as several Tibetan owned restaurants.

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Tibetan nomad wearing a traditional style coat and sheep-skin boots

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Monks outside the assembly hall at Labrang Monastery

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Some of the thousands of prayer wheels that surround the monastery

Labrang Monastery is an important pilgrimage destination for Tibetans living across the Amdo region. Though religious pilgrims come throughout the year, the most popular time pilgrims arrive in Labrang is the weeks before and after Losar, or Tibetan New Year. Large festivals take place in Labrang during Losar each year. A huge Thangka (a huge Buddhist painting) is displayed on the Thangka Wall near the monastery and many thousands of Tibetans are in attendance. Each day during Losar thousands of pilgrims walk the kora (pilgrimage circuit) around the monastery. The pilgrimage circuit is lined with thousands of prayer wheels. 

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Labrang Monastery

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A monk walking barefoot through the snow

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Tibetans walking around the monastery

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Nomad Tibetan from near Labrang/Xiahe

Labrang lies at an elevation of 2950 meters (9675 feet) in a valley that is partially surrounded by an evergreen forest. The location is quite beautiful and relaxing. There are excellent hiking trails in the area that are well worth exploring. The town is quite modern and has several good hotel options to choose from, both budget and mid-range. I personally always stay at the Bao Ma Hotel or the Overseas Tibetan Hotel, both of which lie near the monastery.

Getting to Labrang/Xiahe is easy. There are multiple buses per day from Lanzhou to Xiahe, which take about 4 hours. There is also a daily bus from both Xining and Rebkong (Tongren) in Qinghai province to Xiahe.

If you have any questions about Labrang or other regions of Tibet, send me an email at thelandofsnows@gmail.com

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Monk walking through the snow

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Pilgrims walking around Labrang Monastery

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Posted by 2013 Tibet Travel Updates « The Land of Snows on February 10, 2013 at 2:12 pm

[…] Gansu province has one Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture that is part of the traditional Tibetan region of Amdo. Gannan prefecture has been a hot-spot for political unrest for more than a year. Along with several small protests, there have been more than 2 dozen self-immolations in this area. Portions of the prefecture, including Labrang Monastery, were closed in October and November 2012, but these areas are now open again to foreign travelers. Check back frequently on the status of this prefecture as its unstableness could cause it to close again at anytime. […]

Posted by emily on March 1, 2013 at 11:10 am

hi, my name is emily. in about 2 years i plan on making a trip to labrang. is there anything you sggest i should learn or research for my adventure?

Posted by David on April 25, 2013 at 11:31 am

Hi Losang

First, thanks again for this post (among all the others on your great website).

Regarding Labrang, do you have any information regarding accessibility for foreigners at the moment? After last October it was closed for a long time, perhaps until February, so, perhaps even longer..?

Thanks a lot!
David

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