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china Travel

LABRANG, THE MONASTERY TOWN

Traveler Ni continues his trip through China

Today Laetitia, Vanessa and I returned to the monastery of Labrang, since yesterday we could not know everything.

Labrang is a true monastery city, smaller only than Llasa, one of the six largest monasteries of the Yellow Hat Sect, larger than Xining’s Kumbum, with several Tibetan temples and full of monks in red robes and some with yellow hats. It was founded in 1709 by monk E’Ang Zongzhe, who became the first generation of the “Living Buddha” or “Jiemuyang”. It was the scene of battles and atrocities between Tibetans and Muslims in the 1920s, later with the Cultural Revolution, monks were persecuted and the monastery closed, re-opened only in 1980. It’s a city within another city.

A tour around here is certainly something worthwhile, especially when you don’t have Tibet on the script. There is no separation or wall between the monastery and the city, the place is very beautiful with its architecture and typical colors. There was a large white stupa, a pagoda, several red-earth brick buildings, some with a golden roof, but what caught my attention most was the first building early in the monastery. In fact it was as if it were a giant rosary, while the monks prayed, walked clockwise around the building and spinning a kind of drum called “prayer wheels”, there were hundreds of these drums lined up around the building, I had no patience to count how many there were.

We joined a group that had an English guide to enter to some temples. The monks dropped their black-skinned shoes at the entrance to the temples, which were piled up, I don’t know how they could distinguish their peers, for they were all the same, perhaps by smell. Inside the temples the guide gave some explanations about Buddha and the various incarnations and schools, while the monks practiced their prayers in a half-light environment.

I climbed one of the temples from where it had the view of Labrang, on the roof of the temple there was a golden stupa with a Buddha inside.

In the afternoon I went with Oriane to the mosque and the old part of town. The mosque was entirely made of Chinese architecture, only the crescent moon erected on the roof and the minaret demeaned the religion.

In the evening at the restaurant we found out there were two menus with different prices, one for locals and another for westerners. In fact I realized because yesterday I had eaten noodles in that same restaurant alone, and today I have found the price more expensive, the menu was differentiated by color. Yesterday I was confused with a local Chinese, but today I was with the foreigners and not to create confusion I ended up paying the price of the menu for foreigners. The Chinese are full of tricks to deceive tourists, this is one of the things that most annoy tourists, apart from the lack of hygiene and politeness.

I took a copy of Lanzhou’s missing pages from Laetitia’s Lonely Planet, although being in French helped a lot, after all I understood a little. This guide is the backpacker’s bible. Without knowing, I ended up not knowing the other part of town where there was the temple and sect of the Red Hats.

Tibetan monks of the Yellow Hats sect.

By Traveler Ni

I have traveled the world for the past two decades and recorded my experiences. Come join me on my travels and plan your own adventure.

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