QINGHAI AMDO TIBET (XINING CITY)

   
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QINGHAI XINING


Tibetan Amdo encompasses a large area from the Machu River (Yellow River) to the Drichu river (Yangtse). Amdo was and is the home of many important Tibetan Buddhist monks (great lamas), and scholars who had a major influence on both the politics and religious development of Tibet. Holy men like the 14th Dalai Lama, the 10th Panchen Lama, and the great reformer Je Tsongkhapa were born or lived in Amdo. For Tibetans, Amdo was traditionally a place of great learning and scholarship that included many great monasteries. Still in tact, and one of the highlights for visitors is the Kumbum Jampa Ling Monastery (Chinese name - Ta'er Si) near Xining. While culturally and ethnically Amdo is a Tibetan area, it has been annexed into the Chinese provinces of Gansu, Sichuan and Qinghai.

Qinghai is located on the northeastern part of the Tibetan Plateau. The average elevation of Qinghai is over 3000 meters above sea level (800 meters higher than Xining). Qinghai, named after the largest lake in China, Qinghai Lake, is one of the most diverse and beautiful Tibetan areas with numerous national parks, temples and tombs.

Included in Qinghai Province are the cities of Golob, Haibei, Hainan, Haixi, Haixi, Huangnan and Yushu. Yushu (the city) is a predominantly Tibetan city. Keep in mind, there are many dialects of the Tibetan language spoken in Amdo due to the traditional geographical isolation of many tribal groups. However the written Tibetan language is the same throughout Tibet. Don't be surprised if your Tibetan guide has a difficult time communicating in some of these remote areas! Be assured, they can communicate, but it takes more effort, more time, more sentences. The Tibetan inhabitants of Amdo are referred to as Amdowa (amdo pa) as a regional distinction from the Tibetans of Kham (Khampa) and U-Tsang (Central Tibet), however, they are all considered ethnically Tibetan.

It's a bit of a secret, but the Tibetan areas around Xining have some of the best preserved Tibetan cultural regions remaining, especially if you are willing to go a bit off the beaten path with your guide. You can stay with nomads in their tents and live their ancient lifestyle for a few days, you can sleep overnight in a monastery or nunnery, you can witness traditional (not put on for tourists) festivals in remote villages, you can visit traditional Tibetan farmers and see their operation, you can go mountain trekking or boating or hiking. You take take photos while sitting on fancy-fitted yaks and camels, you can even see the fluffiest clouds on earth. But many of these things require a sense of adventure and a willingness to rough it a bit, but I promise you will come away a changed person with emotionally-stirring memories that may soon be unable to experience. Come now while there is still tradition and color and wonder, come visit this magnificent Tibetan culture before it merges into the mass of Chinese influence and is forever a lost civilization. Come while there are still monks living in the monasteries and nomads living in tents. Come smell the wonder of pristine mountain air at the roof of the world.

Xining, known as Silung in Tibetan, is the largest Chinese city on the Tibetan Plateau. It is actually located on the eastern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. This land mass is the traditional Tibetan province of Amdo. It is now the political, cultural, economic, scientific and technological center of Qinghai Province. With an average altitude (be prepared with a high factor sun block to defend against sun burn) of over 2200 meters (about 7217 feet), it's a good place to acclimate before venturing into higher parts of the plateau. Xining is an ideal  point for visiting Tibetan areas of China that are not in the TAR, but if you have asthma be sure to bring an inhaler as the smog is so thick on some days that an asthmatic should not go outside without an air mask! On a clear evening after a cool summer rain, Xining is quite picturesque back dropped by a magnificent mountain range. As the sun sets and a myriad of neon lights that highlight important structures come on, Xining offers tourists a different flavor. With the unique Chinese streetlamps and dancing in the park every night of the week, Xining sparkles with life, love and excitement.

Xining is the first city on the upper reaches of the Yellow River to have a population counting in the millions (1.2 - 2?). There are about 37 fascinating nationalities living here, including Tibetan (10%), but it seems mostly a Chinese city. Almost all the shops and businesses are owned by Chinese proprietors. The city itself has a strong Islamic flavor and it is interesting to visit Islamic areas, mosque and restaurants. You will start getting a more Tibetan feel as you move away from the city in the poorer rural areas and near the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. The local traditions and customs witnessed in Xining are influenced by these distinctive nationalities, in particular the Hui (Muslim) and Tibetan groups. Xining can be quite cold and snowy in the winter, but between May and September it is one of the most pleasant cities in all of China with an average high of 22C / 72F (You'll need a sweater for evenings).

Xining is an excellent place to regroup, load up with supplies, and map out travel or trekking plans. With mountains lying sharply to the north of the city, and desolate plains stretching before it, Xining is a welcoming staging point for trekkers to areas beyond.

Xining Museum

The Qinghai Museum is located at No.4 Weimin Alleyway, Xining. Over 10,000 exhibits are displayed for those interested in the Chinese version of local history and ethnic relationships.
The collection of relics includes Mongolian pottery, Tibetan mani-stones (stones carved with religious prayers and images), and bronze coins from the Han dynasty. The permanent exhibition also features a display of traditional clothing and architecture from minority ethnic groups in Qinghai, including Tibetans, Mongolians, Hui, and the lesser-known groups like the Tu and Sala. If you have time on your hands and it's a cold day, stop by and enjoy the indoor warmth and pretty displays.

   
QINGHAI ATTRACTIONS  

Kumbum Jampa Ling Monastery/Ta'er (Gelugpa/yellow hat sect)
In commemorating the founder of the Yellow Hat Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, Tsong Khapa (1357-1419), the Kumbum Jampa Ling Monastery was built in 1577 more than 150 years after his death. In the Tibetan language, Kumbum Jampa Ling is translated as 'gongben', which means '10,000 figures of Buddha'. more

Qinghai Lake/Bird Island
Whether it is the astounding aqua blue color or the mere mass of this lake, Qinghai Lake is the largest inland salt water lake in all of Tibet and China. It lies northwest of the imposing Qinghai Altiplano (plains), and 150 km (93.21 miles) away from Xining in Qinghai Province. The name Qinghai means blue and it's a blue you'll remember the rest of your life. The kingdom of birds on the island nearby, which can sometimes be more than ten thousand in the summer, it really a stunning sight. more

Temple of Princess Wencheng
On the way to Qinghai Lake you'll be able to stop and see the tribute built to the Chinese Princess who married a Tibetan King. There is a fairy tale saying that the lake was pooled by the tears of Princess Wencheng. more

Nanzong Nunnery in Kanbula Park
With a total area of 7,200 hectares, Kanbula National Forest Park is located in the northwest of Jianzha County and beside the Lijiaxia Reservoir area. You can get there by local bus from Xining, passing through Tibetan villages along the way. Outside the park is a small town with a hotel, or try sleeping at the cafe next to the river on cushions in a private dining room they can make into sleeping quarters for the night!

It is difficult to describe this massive red-rock area with spires and vertical columns, towering like castles, unless you've been to Bryce National Park in Utah, USA. Still, at such a high altitude and with so much massiveness, overlooking the astounding azure blue reservoir as you climb the switchbacks, there is truly no comparison to the stunning awe of this place. There's a daily fee now with time limits, so start early. more

Liuwan Tombs
Located in the interesting Liuwan Village in Gaomiao Town of Ledu County, 80 kilometers from Xining, is the largest set of well-preserved tombs from primitive times. The tombs cover an area of 110,000 square meters. Astonishingly, there are over 1,500 tombs with 30,000 relics! The cultures included in this discovery include Majiayao, Machang, Jijia, and Xindian. The unearthed articles include such things as the ancient axe, adx, chisel, and knife, as well as pottery articles the people used for daily preparation of food and medicines. Don't miss seeing the highly-valued painted pottery statue. Ask the local guide for more information.

Tibet Shashung Monastery

Shashung Monastery currently houses 350 monks. Founded in 1349 this is one of the oldest standing monasteries in the region. Not a tourist attraction, it is really cool to spend some time watching the monks go about their daily business of working, chanting and praying. This is not on any pre-packaged tour so ask if you are interested.


 

 

Annual International Bicycle race
The Qinghai Lake International Cycling Race has been held in July or August annually in Qinghai province since 2002. In Asia, this race has become known as one of the highest-leveled, largest-scaled and highest altitude of all bicycle races in this part of the world. The race is 1354 km in distance and an average of 3000 meters in altitude and lasts for 7 to 10 days. The route is designed with the Qinghai Lake as the hub. What makes this race so popular is the opportunity for the cyclists to enjoy the magnificent natural scenery en route

A'Nyemaqen Mountain
There is not much to say that this photo doesn't tell. Tucked between mountain ranges lies a sleepy little village waiting to enchant you. The surrounding beauty, the verdant green hills of summer, the snow-capped magnificence in winter will make you want to hang up your hat here and never go home. Not the easiest to access, but by far one of the most beautiful areas of the Tibetan Plateau,
A'Nyemaqen Mountain is a world wonder not to be found outside of Switzerland! This area, along with 14 other mountain ranges in Qinghai are open to mountaineers. Ask Kalsang for more details.

 

 

Highland Xishuangbanna' Mengda Nature Reserve
There is no other place quite like Mengda Nature Reserve. The mere diversity of highland animals, flora and flocks of birds found in the area could keep a traveler here for months. The snow-topped spikes of lofty mountain peaks, icy natural formations, vastly distinct deserts and colorful green pastures makes this place a photographers paradise.


North Mountain Temple/Beishan Si
A Taoist Temple of interest, this
fourteen-hundred-year-old North Mountain Temple (Beishan si, or Beichan si) is situated on a mountain known by the same name to the north of the Huangshui River. It is one of the few Taoist temples in the mostly Tibetan Buddhist Qinghai province. Truly, the view of the city from here is worth the visit. A pleasant peaceful hike awaits you!

Sun & Moon Mountain
N
ortheast of the Qinghai Lake in the Huangyuan Prefecture of east of Qinghai Province, the Sun and Moon Mountain belongs to the Qilian Mountain chain. This mountain peak marks the boundary between the eastern agricultural area and the western pastoral area of Qinghai Province. It's a bit of a hike, but on a clear day from the top of the mountain there is a splendid panorama of this beautiful landscape - prairie, farmland and mountains.

Kekexili Nature Reserve (Kokoxili)
Kekexili, one of the most mysterious and least inhabited areas of Qinghai province is open to tourists, but for the protection of the environment the number of tourists allowed to visit the region is apparently limited to 1,000 each year. Interestingly, every year a large number of female antelopes migrate to Kekexili to give birth; about one month later they return with their offspring. Those migrating between Kekexili and the Three Rivers Reserve need to cross the Tibetan Railway using one of the fifteen wildlife passageways built during the construction of the railway. There is no way to tell if you'll get to see the antelopes. Get permits in advance.

Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve
This is likely the reserve with the most mountains, lakes, swamps, rivers and streams at their origins.
The Sanjiangyuan lies as a large area in the south of Qinghai and is one of the world's largest wetlands. The majesty created by the glaciers and snow-capped peaks surrounding this area is indescribable. Known as a paradise for large varieties of flora and fauna, this reserve attracts naturalists and photographers alike. Just sit along the edge of a hill and wait. The stage before you fills with native animals going about their daily routine, who luckily aren't bothered by the click of the camera. The Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve isn't in a rush, and neither should you be. Take your time and enjoy!

Three Rivers' Fountainheads Nature Reserve
One of the most fascinating aspects of Three Rivers is that is has the highest concentration of biologically diverse high altitude animals in the world. Three River's Fountainheads is meant to protect the sources of the Yangtze River, Yellow River and Lancang River. It covers 318,000 square kilometers with the core area covering 620,000 square kilometers, with a buffer zone covering 50,000 square kilometers and an experiment area covering 206,000 square meters. This is the largest nature reserve in Asia. It includes 16 counties and 5.6 million people.  There are more than 70 different wild species indigenous to Qinghai and Tibet including Tibetan antelopes and Tibetan wild donkeys. If you must choose just one reserve in Qinghai, this would naturally be it, but only if you have time to smell the roses!

Great Mosque of Xining/ Dongguan
Build in the eastern urban area of Xining City, the Dongguan Mosque was built in 1380. It's one of the largest in Qinghai, covering a floor space of 12,000 square meters. It has an assembly prayer hall that can hold up to 3,000 people. Quite impressive, even from the exterior, as seen here. Situated among the hustle and bustle of the city, with taxis and cars dodging each other and people rushing to their destinations, this place offers a contrast to the chaos. Inside, the peacefulness must feel like the breath of life, the reliever of stress. Worth a visit.

Beichan Temple
Pretty as a picture with active saints, Beichan Temple, also called Tuloushan, is located on the North Hill in Xining. Beichan was first built during the Northern Wei period (386-534) on the hillside atop dangerous rocks. Featuring Buddhist architecture and Taoist architecture styles, it is renowned by its name. A Bright Pearl on the Southern Path of the Silk Road. In the temple, there are nine grottoes and 18 caves, with painted patterns of sunken panels, murals, and statues of Buddha. The architectural structure of the two-story main building is unique and exquisite. The cable car at the foot leads to the top of the hill, where people can enjoy a panoramic view of the city of Xining.

Beichan National Park
Seventy kilometers northeast of the Tu Autonomous County of Huzhu, 100 kilometers from Xining, the Beishan National Park has more than 1,000 species of plants and 100 species of wild animals. With over five varied areas, the park boasts over 30 scenic spots, such as the Maple Leaves at Daban, the Snow View at Yuanpu, the Ancient Pines at Qinggang, and the Frog and Rain at Shilong. There are well-equipped tourist service- facilities, such as a guesthouse, the Mountain Village at Shilong, a Tent Hotel, a restaurant, and a dance hall.

Mt. Nianbaoyuze
Known also as Mt. Guoluo, Mt. Nianbaoyuze Mountains is holy to the local Tibetans who live on the Guoluo Grassland areas. It is located 40 kilometers southwest of Jigzhi County, and is the main peak on the southeastern section of Mt. Bayan Har. Nianbaoyuze is composed of many peaks 4,000 meters above sea level. The main peak is located in the southwestern monsoon zone, with an annual rainfall of 700mm, a place with the most rainfall in Qinghai. In the southeast, there are virgin forests of pin
es and firs. Birds are numerous. The ravines are home to snow leopards, brown dears, and lynx. It is believed that the mountain is the birthplace of the local Tibetans.

Da Tsi - Archery Competition
During February each year, there is an interesting archery competition in a small village, not far from Xining, but it's only by invitation foreigners are welcome. Not only do they show off their skills with traditional Tibetan Bows and Arrows, they have evening celebrations of song and dance. If you're heading to Xining in February and you're using our guide, Kalsang, you will be in for the treat of a lifetime, a rare experience among Tibetan farmers and nomads where you are the ONLY tourist!!!!!!!!!!!!


Yangtse River Ice Peaks
The Changjiang (Yangtze) River descends from the glaciers at the northwestern foot of the snow-capped Geladandong, the main peak of Tanggula Mountains. Twenty-one ice peaks tower 6,000 meters above sea level, forming the Tuotuo River, the origin of the Yangtze. Among the forest of ice peaks people can enjoy the superlative craftsmanship of nature - the crystal ice "sculptures" of towers, bridges, and mushrooms. The best season is June through September.

Tu Village - Home of the Rainbow
Located in Weiyuan Town, the seat of the Tu Autonomous County of Huzhu, 30 kilometers from Xining, the Tu Village has more than 100 families
with over 500 inhabitants. The villagers speak their own language, and have very unique traditions and culture. They are talented singers and dancers. The Tu women are good at embroidery, and their clothes are joined together with pieces of cloth in blue, black, yellow, white, and red, embodying the sky, the earth, harvest, good luck, and enthusiasm. Hence, the county is known as Home of the Rainbow.

Four Villages
The four villages including Shangxia Wutun, Nianduhu, Gasairi, and Guomari, in Tongren County, Tibet Autonomous Prefecture of Huangnan, are known as home to Buddhist paintings and sculptures. The villages themselves, the villagers and their traditional wear is worth a visit. Popular some 700 years ago, the techniques of Regong art have been utilized in beautifying people's lives and can be found almost everywhere - on the walls, bricks, stones, clothes, and buildings.

Dunhuang & Chaka Salt Lake
The world-known Chaka Salt Lake covers an area of 5,868 square kilometers with 6 billion tons of mineral deposits.
Originally the Chaka Salt Lakes (Chaka yanhu - meaning the sea of salt in Mongolian language) ) were part of the ocean in primordial times, and were formed during the intense crust activity that resulted in the formation of the largest plateau in the world, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It is the leader in deposits of potassium, magnesium, lithium, and sodium, and is the largest salt producer in the country. The Qinghai-Tibet Highway, the highest of its kind in the world, runs through the salt lake. The colorful world of salt forms a unique display on the highland lake, attracting visitors from all parts of the world. The highlight of the lakes are their reflective surfaces, that mirror the passing clouds, the distant mountains and the nomad's tents and herds found around the area. Tourists can take the train to the salt farm, watch the mining of salt, and various salt crystals in the shape of pearls, corals, snowflakes, and mushrooms. The Salt Bridge, 60 kilometers north of the downtown area spans over 32 kilometers. Entirely laid with salt, the bridge is straight, flat, and smooth. The bridge is an amazing sight, although only really worth the visit for those heading towards Dunhuang and the amazing Mogao Grottoes.

Mogao Grottoes
The Mogao Caves, or Mogao Grottoes (also known as the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas and Dunhuang Caves) form a system of 492 temples 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) southeast of the center of Dunhuang. This place is an oasis strategically located at a religious and cultural crossroads on the Silk Road, in Gansu province. The caves contain some of the finest examples of Buddhist art. While spanning a period of 1,000 years, it isn't hard to wonder how this remote place attracts so many tourists every year. Construction of the Buddhist cave shrines began in 366 AD, build to store scriptures and art. The Mogao Caves are the best known of the Buddhist grottoes.

Longbaotan Nature Reserve
Located 80 kilometers northwest of Jiegu Town, the Longbaotan Nature Reserve is a long narrow basin hemmed in by mountains. With an area of 100 square kilometers, this place if for the birds, LITERALLY! There are five lakes, many springs and small islands to delight the birds and bird-watching community. The advantageous natural condition makes it an ideal home for birds and aquatic animals and plants. The black-necked cranes seen here are considered holy and bring the viewer good luck and happiness. Check out the bar-headed geese and brown-headed gulls who come to breed every March and April.

Mengda Heavenly Pond
Located in the east of Jishi Town, Xunhua County, 150 kilometers from Xining, the pond covers and an area of 20 hectares, and is 30 meters in depth. Surrounded by 550 ancient species of trees, including spruce and Huashan pines, this place is truly heavenly. Among the dense forest, there are rare animals and birds, including blue sheep and snow cocks. An ideal health resort and place of meditation, the place has become a state nature reserve.

Anyemagen Mountains
The lofty range of the Anyemaqen Mountains is composed of 13 peaks, averaging 5,900 meters above sea level. Legend has it that living among these peaks are many mountain gods; wise, kind-hearted, and loving who protect the local people from evil spirits. Especially holy to Tibetans, Anyemaqen is attractive for its unique land formation, changeable climate, spectacular waterfalls, and various species of wild animals.

Qutan Monastery
Every monastery in Tibet is full of history and unique in it's own way. Some are small, others large, but all are distinctly Tibetan with the carvings and colors in intricate detail. Some are newly updated, others are worn and ancient, both are intriguing.
The Qutan Monastery is located in Qutan township 25 km southwest of Ledu County in eastern Qinghai. The township itself is alluring, people in traditional dress and head gear embracing their packages, chatting on the street, going about their daily business, which probably hasn't changed much over the past 2000 years. In Sanskrit, Qutan is said to be a nick name of Gautama Siddhartha. The Tibetan equivalent is Duojieqiang. It is now listed as one of the oldest and largest Monasteries in Qinghai.

   
TIBETAN SHOPPING ARCADE TIBETAN DINING
Find everything and anything Tibetan at this market in Xining. The area across from the main bus station on Jian Guo Lu has the largest Tibetan market in town. Specialties include Tibetan carpets, handicrafts, colorful cloth, religious items, Tibetan hats and boots, traditional Tibetan wear, Tibetan silver and turquoise jewelry, Tibetan music, knives, traditional medicinal remedies, animal hides, Tsampa, etc. This area also has numerous Tibetan style restaurants and tea houses. Xining boasts many night clubs that feature some of the most famous singers from across Tibet. Don't hang around this market at night, alone. Tibetan and Muslim specialties include Lamb Tenderloin (Feng'er liji), Kebab (Kao yangrou), Yu Rangpi, Soup Cooked with Lamb and Oxen Entrails and Lamb Liver. Sweet tea or yak butter tea is always on hand at a very reasonable price. Although the yak butter tea is a bit like half melted butter and half milk with a bit of salt, it is an interesting experience. The sweet tea is yummy! A whole pot is usually less than a cup of western coffee in the states. For breakfast you should really try the tasty Tibetan or Muslim Yogurt, a naturally sour, although often sweetened, cow/water-buffalo/yak yoghurt. Also of interest, at least to watch, is the breakfast in the old district of the city, where peasants will provide the cow for your own milk (bring a glass and they will milk the mama cow for you!). With a little tsampa, you'll be full for hours!
   
QINGHAI LAKE  

Whether it is the astounding aqua blue color or the mere mass of this lake, Qinghai Lake is the largest inland salt water lake in all of Tibet and China. It lies northwest of the imposing Qinghai Altiplano (plains), and 150 km (93.21 miles) away from Xining in Qinghai Province. The name Qinghai means blue and it's a blue you'll remember the rest of your life. The kingdom of birds on the island nearby, which can sometimes be more than ten thousand in the summer, it really a stunning sight.

The lake offers year-round attractions. Many tourists prefer when it is a vivid green during the lively summer months, others don't mind the stark nature of this blue paradise surrounded in white. During the spring and summer the grasslands and mountains are blanketed with a luscious green dotted with herds of cattle and sheep. The banks of Qinghai Lake merge with vast blooming farmlands, yellow yellow everywhere! The waves of wheat, salt in the air, and sweet smelling flowers offer up a banquet for your senses. 

In the evening, just before sunset, the water of the lake is very limpid and reflects the stunning mountains, a mirror of delight. The colors change with the seasons at Qinghai Lake. The summer aqua blue changes to azure and to midnight blue and to a myriad of blues and greens that will astound you if you hang out for a couple seasons. Called the 'Seven-Colored Lake' there are mysteries in this water, things buried, secrets untold. The mouth of the nearby river has a yellow color to it from the mass of fish that swim close to the surface. In trying to count the number a bird species one realizes the impossibility. The Kingdom of Birds covers this majestic lake like angels in watch. Truly a bird watchers paradise, many travel here from the ends of the earth to watch this splendid flock.

At different spots around the lake you will find Tibetans, dressed in full regalia, waiting. But they are not alone. With them are there most prized animals also dressed in full regalia, combed like they belonged to kings. They wait to sell a photograph to you. Given there options, selling their photographs to tourists keeps their children fed, at least during the season. So hop on, pay the meager fee, take as many photos as you want and feed a Tibetan family while you're at it. For on this journey to Tibet, even given the beauty of the high plateau, it is the Tibetan people that strain your heart and grant you those lasting memories. Stroll the shore and remember how it used to be for these people who now make a meager living from selling the only thing they have left - themselves in traditional wear.

At times, you will find Tibetans circumambulating the lake as a they do koras around temples and other holy places. This process of prayer and prostration, of walking around ancient holy ground, is a process to show their humble respect to their religious beliefs, to gain favorable blessings, to become the best person they can in this life, hoping for a better existence next time. Please don't interrupt their sacred acts of piety, just enjoy witnessing this centuries-old tradition.

Along the route back to Xining, you will be able to stop and surf the sand dunes and visit the historic remains left on the Tang-Tubo ancient road or the Silk Road. If you want to get the real flavor of the Tibetans' living along this road, stop by one of the tents in the pastures and have a chat. You'll likely be invited in for a cup of yak butter tea by these warm and sociable people. This will be so much better if you have a private guide to translate, but either way it will be a cherish memory you'll never forget. You may be treated to a delicious or odd Tibetan dish, some tsampa (sort of tastes like brown flour and brown sugar with a tiny touch of water for glue - not bad) If you can, leave a small gift. It's not necessary, but its kind. All in all, Qinghai Lake and its surrounding are a definite NOT-To-MISS attraction.

 

BIRD ISLAND - HAIXI SHAN - EGG ISLAND

Tibetans say that if the Qinghai Lake was a crown on the head of the plateau, then the Bird Island would be the largest pearl on it. The kingdom of birds often has more than ten thousand beautiful flying creatures in the summer. They flock to this place in spring from from faraway mountains and deserts to breed here. In the noisiest months of April and May, they are busy laying their eggs and fixing up new nests. With eggs interspersed all over the island, Haixi Shan is also called 'Egg Island'. These waterfowl and birds and their interesting behaviors are worth a half day if you have it. Just sit along the shore and witness their play making and fun nonsense, which apparently is perfect sense to them! Take a deep breath. The air here is healthy, clean and salt layered, a curative in a a scene of enticing natural scenery. The island has been listed as a national natural reserve mainly for the protection of birds.

Temple of Princess Wencheng
The name Qinghai means blue. There is a fairy tale that the Qinghai Lake was pooled by the homesick tears of Princess Wencheng. Actually the stunning colors found here are due to the position of the Tibetan plateau in relationship to the sun.
On your drive out to the lake, there is a beautiful green mount with a statue of Princess Wencheng (the Chinese princess who married a Tibetan king). It is surrounded by thousands of yellow prayer flags, a few buildings, a pagoda and a lot of Tibetan's selling their jewelry and souvenirs, usually at hugely inflated prices. If you show interest you'll likely be swarmed, but what a better way to get some photos of real Tibetans at work. Exchange cameras with a friend and be prepared. Having a private Tibetan guide means you won't overpay! Believe me, it's worth every dime to have one! And remember bargaining is expected and even when you believe you've achieved the ultimate at half price, it's still likely four times the amount you'd pay at the Tibetan market, IF you have your guide along. However, what else can these Tibetan's do besides try to eek out a living by selling things they can make. Look beyond this mount to see their humble abodes, their few yak roaming. It's heart rendering. With so few jobs open to Tibetans and their lands taken from them, I enjoyed overpaying for my keepsakes, knowing I contributed my share to their welfare. Just remember, there are a lot more Tibetan's selling photography and other odds and ends just around the next corner! So choose carefully.
   
Kumbum Jampa Ling Monastery/Ta'er 
Kumbum is a must see. The sight is most sacred due to the personages who have graced it with their presence. It's one of the remaining ACTIVE monasteries in Tibet. If you're lucky or ask your guide, you'll be able to witness a debate between the monks in the debating yard. The entire monastery is a delight with monks in red robes running around, some as young as eight! How cute! There are plenty of prayer wheels to turn and chapels to prostrate in front of. The colors on the refurbished entrances to some buildings are truly breathtaking. Some places are not open to visitors, so please watch the signs. It's crazy, but the monks are allowed to stay here to maintain the monastery and collect the fees from tourists, but it's "owned" like everything in Tibet by the Chinese and the collected revenue doesn't belong to the monastery or it's monks. None-the-less, it is a good thing that it was not destroyed during Mao's Cultural Revolution and still stands for pilgrims and tourists to enjoy. This attraction is generally acknowledged to be one of the six most important monasteries along with the Ganden, Sera and Drepung monasteries in the Lhasa area, the Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse and the Labrang Monastery in Xiahe.

In commemorating the founder of the Yellow Hat Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, Tsong Khapa (1357-1419), the Kumbum Jampa Ling Monastery was built in 1577 more than 150 years after his death. In the Tibetan language, Kumbum Jampa Ling is translated as 'gongben', which means '10,000 figures of Buddha'. During its long 400 years of history, Tibetan monks and lamas of merit have lived in this hillside monastery. Constructed on a slight mountain slope on the edge of a wide valley, the monastery consists of a several different prayer halls, an exhibition hall, monk's dormitories and a range of pagodas. There are a total of around 20,000 religious paintings and embroideries within the walls of this sacred site, as well as numerous yak butter sculptures and statuettes of Buddhas past, present and future. Despite the destructive climate and an earthquake in 1990, the monastery is in good condition.The Great Hall of the Golden Roof and the Great Hall of Meditation are the main attractions, but climbing up behind the main buildings offers a wonderful view of the monastery and valley below. Up here you will find the artisans at work, carving, painting and restoring this glorious building. The colorful gates of the Great Hall of the Golden Roof are different in length, are carved into various flower patterns and painted with mottled Tibetan colors. The surfaces of the walls are covered with green ceramic tiles and embedded with countless pearls, agates, and gems, making the whole hall sparkle like a dream.

The main attraction at the Kumbum, besides the fascinating artistic magnificence, are the famous butter sculptures inside a building at the top of the hill. It's a bit of a walk, but it's worth it. The butter sculptures are preserved behind glass in a refrigerated environment so they don't melt. Unlike the Butter Lamp Festival held in Lhasa, this display lasts year round so people can see the delicate carvings and understand their intricacies. These famous butter sculptures, the barbolas, and the murals are considered to be the three most unique arts of superb craftsmanship at the monastery. While cruising through the monastery, please be courteous to the monks or pilgrims praying. Loud voices and laughter has it's place, but it tends to disturb prayer and meditation. There are tour guides who don't seem to have the slightest notion that this is a holy place to Tibetans, that is it not a tourist site to them. Give the parishioners space and respect just as you would expect at your place of worship. Kindness and thoughtful acts are gifts we can give over and over without cost.

Every year, four grand religious activities are held here between the 14th and the 15th day of the first month and the fourth month, the 7th and the 8th day of the sixth month, and the 22nd and the 23rd day of the ninth month, on lunar calendar.

The village and area around the monastery is also worth seeing. The valley of fields with stately mountains in the distance is great for hiking. From higher up you can view the entire monastery and the pilgrims who devoutly circle the monastery.

YAK BUTTER SCULPTURES
AT KUMBUM JAMPA LING MONASTERY/Ta'er
Qinghai province has a variety of interesting art forms by way of its diverse cultural population. Even among Tibetans there are hundreds of different tribes with unique artistic styles. Especially unusual are the Yak Butter Sculptures (Suyou hua or barbolas) that are made in and around the Kumbum Jampa Ling Monastery. This style of art was first developed in Tibet more than 1,300 years ago. The sculptures are mostly carved during the cold temperatures of winter when the yak oil is easier to mold and quicker to harden. Local artists create a multitude of forms including scenes, Buddhas, people, flora, fauna, landscapes & ancient architectural representations. During the annual Lantern Festival, usually during January or February at the close the the New Year festivities, you can see the best of the best yak butter sculptures.

 

   
KANBULA NATIONAL PARK TAKTSER, TIBET

With a total area of 7,200 hectares, Kanbula National Forest Park is located in the northwest of Jianzha County and beside the Lijiaxia Reservoir area.
It's about 131km away from Xining, faces the Yellow River and is close to Lijiaxia Hydropower Station. You can get there by local bus from Xining, passing through Tibetan villages along the way. Outside the park is a small town with a hotel, or try sleeping at the cafe next to the river on cushions in a private dining room they can make into sleeping quarters for the night!

It is difficult to describe this massive red-rock area with spires and vertical columns, towering like castles, unless you've been to Bryce National Park in Utah, USA. Still, at such a high altitude and with so much massiveness, overlooking the astounding azure blue reservoir as you climb the switchbacks, there is truly no comparison to the stunning awe of this place. There's a daily fee now with time limits, so start early.

This high mountain, deep valley, thick woods and quiet environment is composed of mountains, deflated hills and small intermountain basins. The highest peak is Shenbao Mountain, whose elevation is 4,614m. With these red land formations, a monastery and nunery hidden in the midst with scenerary out of a story book, breathtaking is the only description that fits. One of the later forms of Tibetan Buddhism was born in this place among these peaceful people. Now a new Chinese nature researve, this land is no discovery for Tibetans who have lived among this serenity for thousands of years.

Take your time. Take the drive all the way to the end of the pavement, then keep going along the dirt road, along the riverbed which eventually winds back up inside to the heart of the mountain where you'll find the Ahqiong Nanzong Temple, the Nanzong Buddhist Nunnery, Zanzongzha Temple and Gabu Temple. All these edifices have a history more than 1100 years. Nanzong Temple and Nanzong Buddhist Nunnery are the only religious Buddhist places where monks and nuns coexist with each other in Qinghai Province China. At the end of the road just past the nunnery, you see a red staircase hewn out of the rock, strung with prayer flags. It's a climb, maybe 30 minutes, but at the top is a rather new chapel and the views of the vast open red mountain ranges, and the delicate monastery and meditation caves below will take your breath away. Take water and mosquito repellent! Be sure to stop by the river bottom when you exit. Find the cafe along the water and enjoy the sunset!

Amdo is the birth place of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. He was born in Taktser, Tibet, a fertile village set at the top of a mound and overlooking vast mountain ranges. The population has changed, but it's still an interesting adventure. If it is not blocked off, it would be a delightful visit for those interested in Tibetan Buddhism.

Born to a peasant family in northeastern Tibet, Lhama Dhondrub (his birth name) was soon recognized as the 14th "Dalai Lama" (Mongolian for "Ocean of Wisdom"). In Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama is believed to be an incarnation of Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion. This is how it works; when the Dalai Lama dies, his soul is believed to pass into the body of an infant. Watch the movie "Kundun" to really understand the intricacies of the identification process. Upon recognition, Lhama Dhondrub was renamed Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, and is referred to as Yeshe Norbu, the Wishfulfilling Gem or Kundun. Trained as a monk, when the Dalai Lama was a teenager he became the head of the Tibetan government in their fight against the occupying forces of the People's Republic of China. Since 1959 the Dalai Lama has been the leader of the government in exile in Dharmasala. His travels in the cause of peace and a free Tibet have made him an international celebrity, and in 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Interesting and sad to note, but in 1953, there were estimated to be 100,000 Chinese in the province of Qinghai, most of which is made up of the Tibetan province of Amdo. In 1985, there were 2 5 million Chinese and 0 75 million Tibetans in Qinghai (Chinese Statistical Yearbook 1985). The resettlement process is evident to any visitor. Tibet is no longer Tibetan. For example, in 1985, out of 40 families in Takster, the Dalai Lama's home town, only eight were Tibetan. There were no Chinese households during his childhood (1930s).

There is a beautiful song, Qinghai, sung by a Tibetan female vocalist, that is very popular (2008). Without even understanding the words, one can feel the emotion and understand the pain of losing one's homeland, one's identity. You can purchase VCD's from many shopping areas in Xining or in the Barkhor in Lhasa. With video of Tibetan lands, grasslands and homeland, and lyrics almost cried, they are my most treasured souvenirs of Tibet.

   
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

   
       

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