Perched at an impressive height of some 2,090m in a mountain valley at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau that is now part of Gansu Province, Xiahe is an important Tibetan monastery town that attracts large numbers of devout Buddhist pilgrims to its Labrang Monastery each year. Largely ethnic Tibetans, as well as some Hui and Han Chinese populate the town. The town itself comprises a single street, which runs along the Daxia River. The commercial part of the town is at the eastern end; the Labrang Monastery is in the centre; whilst the Tibetan quarter is at the western end. If not traveling as far as Tibet, the town makes for an interesting visit and a chance to catch a glimpse of the Tibetan lifestyle.
The Labrang Monastery is the most important centre of the Yellow Hat Sect (Gelugpa) outside of Tibet. Founded in 1709 by a local monk, E’Ang Zongzhe, the monastery owes its importance to the fact that the monk became the first generation Living Buddha, or Jiemuyang, who ranks third in the Tibetan hierarchy after the Dalai and Panchen Lamas. Due to the Cultural Revolution, the Monastery was closed until 1980 and the number of monks reduced from around 4,000 to less than 1,200. With the Dragon Mountains to the north and the Daxia River to the south, the impressive monastery buildings are conjoined by a maze of alleyways, making it a fascinating place to wander around.
Other sights include the nunnery that sits on a hill above the Tibetan part of town, and Ngakpa Gompa, a school monastery.
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