China: Tibetan Plateau – The road to Langmusi

High up in the Amdo area of the Tibetan Plateau, in the north-east tip of Sichuan Province and straddling the border with neighboring Gansu, is the small scenic town of Langmusi and its two monasteries.

Monk at the Serti Gompa Langmusi monastery

Monk at the Serti Gompa in Langmusi

I traveled there in April 2014 from Chengdu the capital of Sichuan, via the town of Wenchuan, the epicenter of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, and then on to the Waqie Pagodas near the rather non-descript town of Hong Yuan, before arriving at Tangke where China’s second longest river (after the Yangtze…) the Yellow River goes through a series of bends as it turns northwards.

The first bend of the Yellow River at Tangke in Sichuan Province

The first bend of the Yellow River at Tangke in Sichuan Province

From the First Bend of the Yellow River we headed north for the flat plains of the Ruoergai Grasslands, which took us through some really interesting but quite  rugged and isolated country.

The Ruoergai Grasslands in northern Sichuan

The Ruoergai Grasslands in northern Sichuan

It’s a full days drive from Hong Yuan to the northern end of the Ruoergai Grasslands so we decided to break our journey with an overnight stay at the equally non-descript town of Zoige.

Zoige town in the Ruoergai Grasslands

Zoige town in the Ruoergai Grasslands

Very little to note about Zoige, apart from its quite common polyglot mixture of the ethnic people of the area – in this case Amdo Tibetans – and the Han Chinese who have typically migrated there for economic gain.

There are two schools of thought about this migration of Han Chinese, with the more sinister being that it is a formal (if unspoken) policy of the Chinese government as it seeks to dilute and control the ethnic minorities and in particularly the restive Tibetans.

The other is that its a natural phenomena that has occurred for hundreds of years, whereby the Han go to where they can make money, be that inside China or the rest of the world. Either way it is quite obvious that the Han own the shops and the Amdo Tibetans are their customers…

The main building at the Serti Gompa

The main building at the Serti Gompa

The two monasteries at Langmusi are the Kerti Gompa, or more commonly known as the Sichuan Monastery it is on that side of the Bailong (White Dragon) River that divides the town between the provinces of Gansu and Sichuan. While the Serti Gompa is referred to as the Gansu Monastery for obvious reasons…

We spent the most time at the smaller, but more photogenic Serti Gompa – a rather imprecise term that is used mainly by westerners to refer to an assortment of Buddhist religious buildings.

Architectural detail on the main building at the Serti Gompa

Architectural detail on the main building at the Serti Gompa

Up on the hill overlooking the Serti Gompa is a small building that is part of the 3km kora pilgrimage track and offers a nice vignette in to the utter devotion that is integral to Buddhism.

Pilgrims on the Serti Gompa Kora

Pilgrims on the Serti Gompa Kora

 

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