Xiahe: The Labrang Monastery
Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture
People’s Republic of China
September 4, 2016
After I purchased a small Tibetan painting, I said to my guide, “You just saved me an expensive trip to Tibet.” He responded, “Jan, you are in Tibet.”
Tibet. It’s confusing.
I daresay most of us Westerners think of Tibet, at least in our heart, as a separate, sovereign land. In fact, the Han Chinese conquered Tibet in 1951 and absorbed Tibet into the People’s Republic of China. Now Tibet is the political entity known as the Tibet Autonomous Region, or simply Tibet, a much smaller area than the original country.
However, large “Cultural Areas” of the formerly independent country of Tibet are now incorporated into the southern and western provinces of China including Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu, Qinghai, and Xinjiang.
Here in Gansu Province, more than 1600 monks live and study at the Labrang Monastery (1709). elevation: 2900 meters - 9514 feet.
Thousands of pilgrims and visitors arrive at the monastery every year. The pilgrims arrive to proclaim their devotion to Buddhism. The visitors arrive to admire the beauty of the monastery as well as the surrounding mountain scenery.
By chance, my guide struck up a conversation with a Tibetan woman who had come to the monastery to make a donation. She invited us to her home for an afternoon snack.
The drive to her home provided a first glimpse of the broad expanse of the Tibetan Grasslands. The snack consisted of fresh yogurt, bread and buttered tea.
Our host encouraged us to ride her horses. We politely demurred.
But we did arrange for her to drive us the following day to our next destination.