Labrang Monastery (Xiahe)



The little village of Xiahe in Gansu Province is not your average Chinese village. Its population is 50% Tibetan, 40% Han Chinese (from Eastern China) and 10% Hui Chinese (Muslim Chinese). "Hui" means "go back" in Chinese as many years ago, Muslims living in China would return to their home country (or Mecca ?) on a regular basis. Xiahe is also home to the Labrang Monastery, one of the 6 major Tibetan monasteries of Gelukpa (Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism). 



The monastery was founded in 1709 and is home to 6 institutes : esoteric Buddhism, higher and lower institutes of theology, institute of medicine, astrology and law. At its peak, before the cultural revolution in the 1960s, it had 4000 monks. Today it has only 1200 but this figure is growing despite the fact that the life of a monk can be quite harsh and their only income comes from their family. 


Beautifully decorated window (Labrang Monastery)




Probably even more fascinating to watch than the monks are the pilgrims who will walk all the way to the monastery from their homes in Tibet to pray. To do so they will walk around the monastery and turn the prayer wheels as many times as possible. There are 1174 wheels made of painted wood.



Xiahe village


The village of Xiahe is a small one street village that caters to the monastery as well as to the pilgrims. It has become the major shopping centre for the pilgrims as well as the nomads living in the surrounding grasslands ! In the small shops of the village we found not only household articles mass produced in China but also handmade items from another era such as stoves, stove equipment and leather items. One specific item not found on the pictures are spectacles made with ground crystal lenses and metal frames.


We stayed 3 days in Xiahe and found it incredible to find such a place in China. The China we have been accustomed to is densely populated Eastern China, home of the Han Chinese. Too many of the Chinese we have known or met only long to get rich quick and enjoy a Western lifestyle. In Xiahe, we found spirituality and peace. In Xiahe, we also tried yak and mule meat as well as our first banana-yak-milkshake !


Having a good time in Xiahe


Troopie, ready to go !


Xi'an to Xiahe Back to Trip page Bingling Si Buddhist caves