Situated in southwestern Gansu, the prefecture covers an area of 138,100 square kilometers. It is inhabited by several ethnic groups but the majority are Tibetans. Located on the northeast rim of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, it is bounded on the west by Qinghai Province, on the south by Sichuan Province, on the north by the Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture, and on the east by the Dingxi and Longnan areas. It was home to the Western Qiang people in ancient times.
Rising more than 3,000 meters above sea level, the area is dominated by mountains and highland pastures with a cold yet humid climate. Tourist spots featuring Tibetan folk customs, Tibetan Buddhist culture and architecture, and pasture landscapes are mostly concentrated in Xiahe, Hezuo, Luqu, and Maqu. Gannan is the place where tourists have to pass through when heading for Jiuzhaigou, a spectacular scenic spot in Sichuan, from Lanzhou.
The following itinerary is the best for tourists who want to start their trip from Lanzhou a visit to Jiuzhaigou: Lanzhou-Linxia-Labra Monastry-Zeping Stone Forest-Gahai Lak, Langmu Monastry-Huanglong Monastr Jiuzhaigou-Mounigou.
The Labrang Monastery in Xiahe
Located some 280 kilometers south Lanzhou, the Labrang Monastery in Xiahe is one of the six major monasteries belonging to t Gelugpa Sect or the Yellow Sect of Tibet, Buddhism. Erected in 1709, it has structures built in Tibetan and Chinese palace styles as well structures incorporating elements of both. All the walls of its temple halls are covered with murals depicting Buddhist stories.
The monastery is not only a religious center for Tibetans but also the largest institute higher learning of Tibetan Buddhism. It boast a collection of more than 60,000 Buddah scriptures, the largest collection of its kind found among Buddhist temples in China. In addition also contains a larger number of books on Tibetan grammar, history, medicine, mathematics, calendar, music, and arts and more than 70,0 wood blocks carved with Buddhist scriptures.
The monastery has a great number of Buddhist statues. The tallest one stands at 12 meters and is housed in the Shou'an Temple of the monastery. In its Red Palace are 262 gilded bronze Buddhist statues. They are all 1.7 meters high and rank among the best of their kind in China. Buddhist statues less than 1.7 meters in height number more than 29,000. Murals, embossed embroideries, and Tibetan thangkas (religious scrolls) are numerous.
Langmu Monastery in Luqu
Some 90 kilometers south of the county seat of Luqu is the town of Langmusi. It is located at the northern foot of an extension of the Xiqing Mountains on the bank of the Bailong (White Dragon) River on the Gansu-Sichuan border. Langmusi basically comprises a group of Tibetan monasteries around a valley, which are collectively known as the Langmu Monastery. Langmu means "fairy" in Tibetan. The monastery was so named because inside the cave is rock bearing he resemblance of a beautiful young lady, which was believed to be the transformation of a fairy. The monastery faces the Gerdi Monastery across the river. It was a thriving monastery until 1969 when it was destroyed. The monastery stands close to the Lanzhou- Langmusi Highway and is a great sight on the tourist route between Lanzhou and Jiuzhaigou. It has been opened to tourists in recent years.
Maqu, the first bend on the Yellow River
When it reaches Maqu, the Yellow River turns abruptly, forming the first of its "eighteen bends" on its course. The river flows sluggishly in Maqu and has many tributaries in the area. The bend area is also noted for its beautiful wooded valleys, lakes, limestone caves, hot springs, and rich fauna and flora resources. In addition, tests show that Maqu is an area free of pollution. Maqu in Tibetan means the Yellow River. Maqu County is the only place in the Yellow River Basin, which took its name from the river. Nurtured by the river and the extensive grasslands, the Tibetans here are honest, optimistic, and friendly. They still retain to some extent the mode of production, lifestyle, and customs prevalent among the nomadic tribes in ancient times in the area. The grassland in Maqu is a pleasant summer resort and an ideal place for people who want to return to nature.
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