The location of Xiahe County is very superior. In history, it used to be the political, economic, cultural and religious center of Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuang Province. Xiahe County lies in the southwest of Gansu Province, northwest of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. The longitude is 102 degrees and 31 minutes and the latitude is 35 degrees and 12 minutes. The total area of this county occupies 6273.88 square kilometers, including one rural and 14 towns.
There are 14 nationals, such as Tibetan, Han, Hui, Salar, Dongxiang, Mongolia, and North Korea and so on. The total population is 77,800, which accounts for 78% of the Tibetan population. In the east of Xiahe County, there is a famous temple called Labrang Monastery. It belongs to one of the six sovereign temples of the Tibetan Buddhism Glugpa. Therefore, Labrang Monastery is well-known as the “Orient Vatican”.
Xiahe Tour - Labrang Monastery
With the development of China, the tourism of Xihe County is becoming a pillar industry. Its resources are very abundant. The scenery of grassland is picturesque, the cultures are so colorful and vivid and the natural landscape is very strong. It offers three major characteristics - natural scenery, Tibetan Buddhism, and folk customs.
Labrang Monastery is built in 1709 in Qing Danasty, when the emperor is Kangxi. Its real name is Zaxiai Temple which means prosperous and lucky. Now people often call it Labrang Monastery. “Labrang” in Tibetan is on behalf of “the palace of monks”. Since the creation in 1709, with the development of a majority of monks, Labrang Monastery has become another center of Tibetan Buddhism Gelugpa in addition to Tibet and the Supreme Buddhist Institution in the Northwest Territory. According to the record of history, there were more than 4000 monks living there in the most prosperous period.
Labrang Monastery had a long history. In it, there are six churches and 84 temple halls. Among these temple halls, one has seven floors; one has six floors; four have three floors; nine have two floors; four have a roof of gilt bronze watts; two have a roof of green glazed tile… The construction area is about 800 acres. As for its building style, it’s generally a Tibetan architecture with some Chinese-style buildings. On the walls of the churches and the Buddhist temple halls painted many Buddhist murals, beautiful sets of columns and portraits.
Labrang Monastery owns six zhacang (academies), including the study of Buddhist theory, logic, astronomy, calendar calculation, medicine, calligraphy, music, dance, painting and the sculpture. The preaching in these academies is very careful and meticulous. Labrang Monastery which controls 108 temples is one of the highest learning institutions in Anmuduo (安木多) Tibetan Buddhism. So it is known as the “philosophy of small mussels”.
Wensi Academy (闻思学院), commonly known as Tai Kam(大金堂), is the hub for the Labrang Monastery and the Buddhist temple for the main hall and the main place for the masses of believers to pay homage . This Tai Kam is made up of the former hall, former courtyard, main hall and the rear hall. It looks so magnificent and majestic. Among them, the main hall is 30 meters high, 100 meters wide and 70 meters deep. With the support of 140 sturdy columns, the main hall which covers over 7,000 square meters can accommodate 4,000 monks to recite at the same time.
Big Watts Temple (大金瓦寺) is the highest building in Labrang Monastery. It is located in the north-western corner of Tai Kam, with six floors. The top floor is decorated with gilt bronze kilowatts, gilt bronze lion, copper dragon, copper carving and so on. In the front gate of temple, hung a tablet - “Shouxi (Joyful) Temple”, which was written by Jiaqing emperor in Qing Dynasty using four characters (Han, Tibetan, Man and Meng). Inside the temple, there is a large bronze Buddha with 12 meters high. It was produced in Nepal.
Labrang Monastery Museum
Labrang Monastery is not only a center of nationality, religion, science and technology, education and cultural activities, but also a large-scale art museum. Now more than 29,000 different shapes of the Buddha and many historical relics and crafts are kept well in it. Some of them are made by metal, ivory, jade and crystal. One of the most valuable Buddha is Sakyamuni in Small Watts Temple (小金瓦寺). This statue of the Buddha is said to be taken from India by Master Jingming in 8th century and worshipped by Tsongkhapa who was the ancestor of Gelugpa. After passing through many other places, this statue was at last kept in Labrang Monastery. In the south of Small Watts Temple, there is a pagoda called Gongtang (贡唐宝塔). What attracts people is the exquisite structure that filled with statues, classic, ritual utensils and rare objects. It is the third tower of Asian Buddhist.
So far, more than 6 million various copies are maintained in Labrang Monastery, including 17 poetry categories: collected works, philosophy, Tibetan Buddhism, medicine, the statement, history, religion, biography, verse and mathematics. The most famous works are “Ganzhuer （甘珠尔）” and “Danzhuer” (丹珠尔). In addition, Labrang Monastery has preserved some kinds of Buddhism chants, hats and other religious items. Meanwhile, it also kept many gold, silver and jade products.
Gongtang Pagoda (贡唐宝塔)
Gongtang Pagoda is built in July, 1993. It has five floors measuring 31.33 meters high. This pagoda is built lime-style. It occupies 2144.16 square meters and consists of temples, tap bottles and pillar base. The temple is made up of the sun, the moon and the star; the tap bottle is decorated with eight golden Buddha; the pillar base is a three-tier architecture glazing tiles. With a resplendent shape, internal structure of this pagoda is also delicate. In the center of it, there is a two-story tower with four Buddhists and possessing over 20,000 volumes of Buddhist scriptures.
Sangke Grassland (桑科草原)
Sangke Grassland is in the southwest of Labrang Monastery. It belongs to the meadow grassland. The average elevation is above 3,000 meters and the total area occupies 70 square kilometers. It is the main base of livestock of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. This grassland has a small population (4,000 pastoralists), but it has a vast area. It is a very valuable natural place for tourists. If you travel there, you can get a chance to taste some Tibetan characteristics food, such as milk tea, zanba, Tibetan dumplings and mutton grasping. Of course, tourists have many different entertainment, including riding horses and yaks, shooting and evening campfire. Visitors here can enjoy mysterious and authentic Tibetan culture.