Labrang Kora (Xiahe)
Key information: Labrang Kora (Xiahe)
- A kora (sacred circumambulation) around one of the Tibetan world's greatest monasteries, set deep in the mountains of the Tibetan fringe.
- Join Tibetan pilgrims (some prostrating their way round) as you walk around the temples, courtyards, stupas and monuments of this busy monastery.
- Enjoy the tough, dry mountain scenery, with several other fine walks in the area.
- Walkopedia rating85
- Natural interest8
- Human interest18
- Negative points0
- Total rating85
- Length: 2 hrs
- Maximum Altitude: 2,900m (Labrang monastery)
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
Labrang Monastery, said to be third in the Tibetan world, once home to over 4,000 monks, is vast and decidedly underpopulated although it now houses well over 1,200 monks. Large quiet courtyards, bright awnings flapping lazily in the gentle breeze; dark halls and temples, blood red columns and dimly gleaming gods occasionally incandescent in shafts of light; the buzz of monks in prayer.
A huge golden stupa, glowing above the flat roofs, dominates the town from a hillside across the river. High above, sharp ridges, pockets of snow in their clefts till late in Spring, saw away at the sky.
Like all sacred Tibetan sites, Labrang has a kora, a sacred path winding for over 3 kms around it. Walk clockwise, as custom requires.
Whatever time of year, there will be a throng of pilgrims on the path, mainly from Amdo, the surrounding area of the Tibetan Plateau, wearing the traditional blanket-coat, off one shoulder or even off altogether, arms and upper hanging limply from the waistband. Mothers, faces burned dark brown by the relentless sun and wind and already heavily lined, pad along patiently, stooped under heavy packs, snotty children trailing from each arm. Tiny, wizened grannies, almost bent double, heavy ropes of grey hair hanging down their backs, shuffle along, beady miss-nothing eyes assessing everything about you as you tramp past. Their taller menfolk stagger in front of them, braided hair hanging below wide-brimmed felt hats, knives in their belts, curly-toed leather boots scuffing the dusty path. You will step round many pilgrims prostrating their way round the entire course of the kora.
The upper path is squeezed between the perimeter wall of the monastery and the steep, rocky mountainside. Low sections of wall reveal the brightly painted eaves of great buildings. At the north-eastern corner of the circuit, pilgrims and monks slowly circle a large white stupa. Long ranks of big brass prayer wheels line the eastern leg, each side of the main street. On the south side of the monastery is a half kilometer parade of prayer wheels, massive drums in their own houses dotted among them. Through gateways lie quiet quadrangles.
Xiahe is some four hours out from charmless Lanzhou. It is strung out along the delightful Daxia He river, over 2,900 meters up amid jagged peaks on the Tibetan plateau's edge. Xiahe is a surprisingly pleasant new town with smart little Chinese hotels, downstream from the ancient monastery village.
The walking around Xiahe is excellent. We walked up a rough valley, through an old-looking hamlet then winding up to the shell of a wrecked monastery to the north-west of Labrang itself.
See our Monastery Koras page for more sacred koras.
WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk
As you leave the loess hill country of the Yellow River Basin and wind up the long valleys into the stark mountains of the Tibetan Massif, the Han Chinese world dwindles and Tibetans take over.
Four hours out from charmless Lanzhou, reputedly China's most polluted city when we were there, we passed a large but grubby white chorten, the first physical sign of Ethnic Tibet.We were heading for the town of Xiahe, strung out along the delightful Daxia He river over 2,900 meters up amid jagged peaks on the plateau's.....READ MORE
Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Books and Maps
Books on this walk
Section in China – Rough Guides.
Section in China – Lonely Planet.
Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk. An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
April to September.
Very cold in winter. Wet May to late September.
Usually from Lanzhou (rail stop and airport). Access is usually by bus or car (you can hire a taxi and driver).
See Walk Summary above.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
- Altitude: likely to affect you a bit: expect to puff and perhaps a mild headache.
- Mountain weather: rain and severe cold are possible at any time of year. Come prepared.
- Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
- Health risks: this is a relatively undeveloped country, and you will not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill. Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
You can do these walks independently.
Some people form or join organized trips, although ones that focus on walking rather than sitting in a bus may be rare.
Various places in and around Xiahe. See guidebooks.
Other information and tips
If walking in the surrounding countryside, take a stick and/or rocks, as dogs can be aggressive.
Useful websites and information
There are websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
A lot of information if you google “labrang monastery china”
Other things to do in the area
Visit Bingling Si Buddhist grottoes and grand figures. Approached by a marvelous boat ride on a dammed section of the Upper Yellow River.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
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