China: Tibetan Plateau – The Waqie Pagodas

The Ruoergai Grasslands in the northwest of Sichuan Province was where we were headed, but it’s a two-day drive from our starting point in Chengdu and our journey took us high up on to the Tibetan Plateau through the area devastated by the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake centered around the town of Wenchuan.

We stayed overnight in the rather non-descript town of Hong Yuan where I had my first experience of high-altitude sickness, which was all very strange…

Hong Yuan in Aba County. Sichuan

Hong Yuan in Aba County, Sichuan

The next morning we left early, heading north on the S209 and soon entered the small town of Waqie and discovered its quite remarkable Buddhist pagodas.

Waqie Pagoda EntranceThe pagodas were quite a surprise as there is no mention of them in either the Lonely Planet guide to Sichuan, or in the Chinese guide books my friend Jun had bought in preparation for the trip.

I have since tried researching more about the pagodas, but could find nothing useful apart from passing references in tour itineraries , so they remain somewhat of a mystery…

The pagodas are clearly signposted and you can see them from the road, with entry through a rather forlorn archway that looks as it is should be connected to a boundary wall – but isn’t.

Prayer Flags at the Waqie Pagodas

Prayer Flags at the Waqie Pagodas

As you enter the large area where the pagodas are located, which is a short drive from the main road, you see some incredible prayer flag arrangements.

The prayer flags are made of colorful rectangular cloth and are a common, but still quite spectacular site, across the Tibetan plateau and can be seen strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the mountains. They are used to bless the surrounding countryside and bring benefit and protection plus blessings on special events.

More Prayer Flags at the Waqie Pagodas

More Prayer Flags at the Waqie Pagodas

Further down the entry road from the prayer flags are the pagodas which look incredible with the clear blue skies and cumulus clouds of the Tibetan Plateau as their backdrop.

The main pagoda at Waqie

The main pagoda at Waqie

We seemed to have the whole place to ourselves until this lady (yes, she is…) appeared and requested that we pay an entrance fee – well that’s what we think she meant as she spoke neither English or Mandarin. But what we offered was eagerly accepted and she agreed to let us take her photo, so we figured we must have guessed right!

The gatekeeper at the Waqie Pagodas

The gatekeeper at the Waqie Pagodas

So… an interesting and somewhat mysterious place to spend a few hours if you are heading north from Chengdu towards the Ruoergai Grasslands.

Comments

  1. Hello Don,
    I have been here in Oktober 2016. I was travelling with my Tibetan friends and we didn’t know this place was there. We said to each other that it was unbelievable there. I think it was kind of a fairy tale place. We enjoyed it very much and we walked a long time there and took also a lot of photo’s. I still have to put this pictures of this travel and this place on my website. I hope to this around March of next year.
    Greetings, Ellen

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