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Labrang Monastery’s ‘Unveiling the Buddha’ Ceremony, Xiahe, Gansu Province

In Brief: Visit Xiahe to witness a giant Buddha tapestry being unveiled on the hillside above Labrang Monastery and to join the crowds watching the lively performances in the town square. Trip also includes hikes and walks in nearby grassland areas.

Monks unveiling a huge cloth thangka

Monks unveiling a huge cloth thangka.

See the once-a-year sight of a giant Buddha tapestry being unveiled on the hillside above Labrang Monastery, and mingle with the crowds of pilgrims who come from the Tibetan areas of Gansu’s countryside to see the folk performances and to pray and partake in Buddhist rituals.

This four-day trip also includes hikes and walks in the grasslands near Xiahe.

Trip overview

Day 1—Fly to Lanzhou, drive to Xiahe, visit Deerlong Temple.
Day 2—See the unveiling of the Buddha in the morning; hike in the Sangke Grasslands in the afternoon.
Day 3—See Tibetan folk opera performances in a monastery in the morning; visit the Ganjia Grasslands and Bajiao City Ruins in the afternoon.
Day 4—Drive back to Lanzhou; two-hour hike in mountains near Lanzhou; fly back to Beijing.

Unveiling the Buddha at Labrang Monastery, Xiahe

Founded in 1709, Labrang Monastery is considered to be Tibetan Buddhism’s most important monastery outside of Tibet, and is currently home to around 1,500 monks and novices. At its peak in 1957, the monastery housed around 4,000 monks.

Each year, just after Chinese New Year, Labrang Monastery hosts ceremonies and celebrations that draw pilgrims from all around.

Labrang Monastery, Xiahe

Monks carry the tapestry up to the top of a hill. Click to see more photos from the unveiling and other performances

More photos from the unveiling and other performances

  1. The Buddha is unveiled
  2. Cham Dancers
  3. Cham Dancers in Xiahe

The ceremonies and celebrations last for a few days, and include Tibetan folk performances. You'll see the colourful costumes and masks associated with the Cham dances, and be sure to keep an eye out for the different routines of the Skeleton Dance, the Deer Dance, and the Black Hat Dance.

As part of a one of the main ceremonies a large team of monks will carry a giant tapestry up on to a hill and unveil it, revealing an embroidered image of Buddha.

At Labrang Monastery this happens just one time a year, and the Buddha is on display for just an hour or so.

A monastery will often have several of these tapestries, and will display a different one each year. In 2016 we saw the Manjushri (Buddha of Wisdom) thangka displayed.

A ‘thangka’ is a Tibetan Buddhist style of artwork that comes in several different types and sizes. Most commonly they show a scene with a particular Buddhist deity as the centrepiece. Sometimes a thangka is used as the focus of a ritual or ceremony, where the deity is used as a starting point for a discussion of a particular story or scripture.

Hikes and walks during the trip

Sangke Grasslands

The Sangke Grasslands near Xiahe. Click to see more photos from the hikes on this trip

More photos from the unveiling and other performances

  1. Sangke Grasslands
  2. Bajiao Ruins
  3. Ganjia Grasslands
  4. Landform near Lanzhou

During our time in Xiahe we'll head into town each morning to see the celebrations. In the afternoons we'll head out into the surrounding countryside to explore the other sights of the area.

The terrain near Xiahe is quite mild – something like what we would call a Level 2 hike in Beijing – but we'll be at high altitudes, which will make it feel a bit tougher.

In the Sangke grasslands we'll take a stroll in the grasslands to take a look at the scenery: lakes, rivers, and far-off snow mountains.

At the Ganjia grasslands we'll first stop for a look around the Bajiao City ruins, before driving on to the Baishiya 'White Cliff' Monastery. If the monastery is is open we'll definitely take a look around there to see if we can find the sacred cave. We'll then go for a walk near the monastery, aiming to find a good spot for sunset photos.

On the last day of the trip we’ll go for a quick post-lunch hike in the mountains near Lanzhou. The colours in the hills here are similar to the famous Zhangye Danxia Landform, but it’s a secret spot – well, given that it was supposed to be developed into a park, maybe not secret, but forgotten.

Weather

Temperatures in the mountains are usually very cool due to high altitude, and at this time of the year it could be seriously cold. Expect highs of around 8°C and overnight lows of around -15°C. It could get colder! There’s a small chance of rain and snow, so bring a waterproof jacket just in case.

Accommodation

We'll stay in comfortable local hotels on this trip.

You’ll be sharing a room with another hiker. If you'd like a guesthouse/hotel room to yourself for the trip, it can be arranged at an extra cost of 500 RMB in total, if rooms are available—usually not a problem!

Further details about room shares and single supplement can be found in the documents we send you as part of the registration.

Flights and transport

We fly to and from Lanzhou for this trip. Land transportation will be via big and comfortable SUVs.

Frequent flyers: Please let us know if you would like to use your frequent flyer miles or if you are a frequent flyer member. If you would like to organise your own flights, we can provide further details.

Food

We will take most of our meals at restaurants in the areas we visit, or at the hotels or guesthouse. On one of the days we include a picnic lunch for you. Bring some spending money for snacks during the trip. Please let us know if you have any special dietary requirements or food allergies.

Things to bring

  • Passport/ID card
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers
  • Thermal underwear and other warm clothing (it could get cold!)
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Thick socks
  • Hiking boots
  • A day pack to take on outings, suitcases or bigger bags can be left at the hotel
  • Camera and charger, batteries
  • Suncream
  • Torch or headlamp
  • Mobile phone, charger

Photos

Scouting trip photos: Click here to see 60 photos from our 2016 scouting trip

Full itinerary

  1. Day 1
    08:00 – Meet at Beijing Capital Airport for a 9:15am flight
    11:50 – Arrive in Lanzhou
    13:00 – Board jeeps for the drive to Xiahe
    16:30 – Stop en route to take a look at Deerlong Temple.
    17:00 – Arrive in Xiahe, check in at hotel.
    18:30 – Dinner, then free time

  2. Day 2
    08:00 – Breakfast at the hotel
    09:00 – Walk over to Labrang Monastery
    09:30 – See the ceremony where the Buddha tapestry is unveiled
    11:30 – Lunch
    13:00 – Drive to the Sangke Grasslands for a hike.
    13:30 – Hike in the grasslands
    16:30 – Drive back to Xiahe
    18:00 – Dinner, then free time

  3. Day 3
    08:00 – Breakfast at the hotel
    09:00 – Walk over to Labrang Monastery
    09:30 – See the performances of Tibetan operas
    11:30 – Lunch
    13:00 – Drive to the Ganjia grasslands area.
    14:00 – Visit the ruins of Bajiao City, visit Baishiya Monastery, short hike near the monastery.
    17:00 – Drive back to Xiahe
    19:00 – Dinner, then free time

  4. Day 4
    07:30 – Breakfast at hotel, check out
    08:30 – Drive back to Lanzhou
    13:30 – Lunch in Lanzhou
    14:30 – Drive to nearby mountains for a hike
    15:00 – Hike in mountains
    17:00 – Drive to Lanzhou airport
    18:00 – Check in for flight back to Beijing
    19:40 – Fly back to Beijing
    21:55 – Arrive in Beijing
    All times are approximate, and depend on our speed of movement

More information

Contact us at any time for more information. Payment terms, conditions, and details will be supplied along with a waiver document and travel guidelines after your registration request has been received.

We usually need to get 8–10 people signed up to go ahead with this trip. Beijing Hikers reserves the right to decide who may participate in this trip.

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