We timed our scouting trip to Xiahe for the Tibetan New Year celebrations at Labrang Monastery. The celebrations are a major event, with performances and rituals that are seldom seen elsewhere. Our hiking guide Katie is from the area, and it was her excellent idea to go take a look.
Labrang Monastery is located in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Gannan, in Gansu Province. It’s one of the six major monasteries of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
Many people visit the area in summer and autumn, but for a true taste of Tibetan Buddhism you need to be there for the three-day celebration during Tibetan New Year.
On the first day a giant embroidered Buddha is unfurled on a hillside, and pilgrims and monks offer prayers.
On the second day, Tibetan operas portray Buddhist life and practice.
On the third day, a statue of Buddha made from pure yak-milk butter is prayed to.
See all the photos below.
Two little kids dressed up for a performance (Photo by Dennis).
Kids perched on a rock (Photo by Dennis).
Riders at a temple (Photo by Dennis).
Local Tibetan people praying outside of the monastery.
People enjoying the sunshine and waiting for the ceremony (Photo by Dennis).
A small section of Labrang Monastery.
People on the roof of the Gongtang pagoda.
Monks carrying the huge embroidered Buddha up to the hillside.
The embroidered thangka is unfurled on the hillside.
Hundreds of monks were holding it down.
Monks walking through the crowd.
Monks walking through the crowd.
These little buildings are used for meditation.
A holy goat!
A small fabrics shop.
Here's these two again.
Blue sky above the temple (Photo by Dennis).
Masters are leading all the monks in prayer.
Onlookers at the ceremony.
More onlookers. Many of the visitors are pilgrims from other regions.
Two old ladies talking about the ceremony.
Close up of Gongtang Pagoda.
A cat also enjoying the sunshine.
All dressed up in traditional clothes.
Monks chatting after a debating session.
The embroidered thangka depicts the Buddha of wisdom.
Covering it up again.
A old Tibetan man.
Crowds around the Gongtang Pagoda.
A visiting family.
We walked around to a different temple.
Walking around the monastery or performing a Kora is one of the many different ways to pray in Tibetan Buddhism.
We did a circuit around Gongtang Pagoda.
The next morning was frosty!
Devout people head out to pray even on a snowy day.
A master monk heading to pray.
Monks are preparing for the Tibetan opera performances.
People waiting for the opera. Cold!
The tiger is an important symbol in the ceremony. The tiger makes sure all people are respecting the traditional customs, and enforces them with a bang on the head if you are misbehaving!
Preparing for the Tibetan opera.
Tibetan style horn.
The first part of the opera.
This actor is almost flying.
The tiger is back.
Prayer wheels surround a building.
Long view of Labrang Monastery.
A photo from the back of the monastery.
We did a little hike out into the hills.
Midway on the hike.
We enjoyed the food and performances at a Tibetan restaurant.
Terrace fields near Lanzhou (photo by Yanjing).
A local lady from a village near Lanzhou.
Pine tree behind a temple.
A mosque near Lanzhou.
We climbed up for a look at the terraces.
A photo from a Tibetan wedding ceremony.
Back in Beijing, we met up to share photos from the trip.