The Great Prayer Festival is an important date on the Tibetan calendar, and the ceremonies at Labrang Monastery in Xiahe are particularly well-attended.
We mixed in with the crowds of pilgrims at the festival to see the ‘unveiling of the Buddha’, plus performances of the Cham Dance and various temple rituals.
The main purpose of the festival is to ‘offer prayers for the long life of holy Gurus, for the [...] spreading of the Dharma [...], and for world peace’.
One of the main events of the festival is the unveiling of a giant silk embroidered Buddha thangka on a hillside.
As well as participating in the festival, we made side trips to nearby grasslands and towns, and on the way back to Lanzhou we stopped for a short hike in an obscure spot with similar scenery to the famous Zhangye Danxia landform.
We were welcomed to Deerlong Monastery with tea and snacks.
Here’s our guide from Deerlong Monastery.
At Labrang Monastery there’s a corridor of prayer wheels that stretches 2.5km.
Carved ornamentation above a door of one of the halls in the monastery.
Visitors to the monastery.
Praying in front of the Grand Sutra Hall.
The ‘Unveiling the Buddha’ ceremony begins with a procession, led by the tiger.
The procession went out of the monastery.
The tiger is facing the Gongtang Pagoda.
A young monk in the procession.
The unveiling is beginning.
There it is. This year they brought out the Maitreya Buddha (the Future Buddha). In 2016 we saw the Manjushri Buddha (the Buddha of Insight).
These women are wearing traditional Amdo clothing.
Later that day we went for a hike in the nearby grasslands. The terrain looked easy, but at 3,100m above sea level it didn’t feel easy.
We picked up a little dog for an escort.
The next day we took a look at some of the other performances and rituals of the festival. Here they’re preparing for a Cham Dance.
The monks are wrapped up against the cold.
The yellow hat and sash mean he’s a master, and the other monk is his assistant.
Setting up a frame to display another smaller embroidered Buddha.
A little girl and her grandmother came to say hello to us.
More traditional clothing.
The people wearing this costume were part of a group that protects the Buddha.
A wall painting inside the Grand Sutra Hall.
Full moon over the monastery.
We also visited the Bajiao Ruins, a walled barracks that dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
A view of the walls of the barracks.
There’s a small farming village inside the walls.
We saw another ceremony at a smaller temple near the grasslands.
A procession of monks.
At this temple the Buddha protection team wore a white uniform.
We took a photo with two of the protection team.
On the way back to Lanzhou we stopped off a town in the Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture.
A gymnasium with Islamic-style architecture.
The Liujiaxia reservoir, part of a hydropower station on the Yellow River.
Colourful mountains near Lanzhou.
Hiker Andre striking a pose.