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Ngari Travel Guide

The vast region of Far-west Tibet, known as Ngari, in Tibetan (Ali) is like the neighbouring Jangtang plateau, one of the least populated parts of Tibet.Its regional headquarters is in the town of Purang. Gar County is its capital. It includes part of the Aksai Chin area, a part of Kashmir, which is disputed with India. The Xin-Zang Road passes through this area. Theres a famous pre-historic culture site near the town of Ritu.There existed once the Ancient Tibetan Guge Kingdom. Ngari along with Ü and Tsang compose Ü-Tsang, one of the traditional provinces of Tibet, the others being Amdo and Kham.

Major Attractions

Tholing Monastery

Picture of Tholing Monastery

Tholing in Tibetan means "fly and never fall". It was founded by Yeshi-O, an outstanding king of Guge Kingdom at the beginning of 10th century. Yeshi-O was a devout Buddhist. He ever sent 21 youths to learn Tantric Buddhism in Kashmir, but only Rinchen Zangpo and another survived and returned.

Rinchen Zangpo, a greatest Buddhist adepter and translator, started to translate Buddhist sutras and develop Buddhism at Tholing, which was set up by Yeshi-O for that purpose. Later Yeshi-O was defeated and captured in an ambitious aggression he launched in order to plunder enough gold to invite Atisa to his Guge Kingdom to push forward Buddhism. He sacrificed his life to send his ransom to Atisa. After his arrival, the monastery gained higher reputation and once became a religious center in Tibet under the royal patron of the Guge Kingdom.

Although it faded after the collapse of the Guge Kingdom, Tholing still maintains an important place in Tibet after 900 years in consideration of its significance in the second transmission of Buddhism into Tibet

Mount Kailash

Picture of Mount Kailash

Kailash means 'Treasure or Saint of Snow Mountain' in Tibetan. The name originates from the year-round snow on its peak and its historical religious connections. The mountain is sometimes called 'Mother of Iceberg'. It appears to be gazing at another mountain, Namcha Barwa, or 'Father of Iceberg' in the far distance.

Mt. Kailash is the highest peak in the massive Gangdise mountain range with an altitude over 6,600 meters (21654 ft.). The peak is very pointed and looks like a pyramid piercing the sky. Seen from the south the vertical ice trough and horizontal rock formation combine as the Buddhist symbol Swastika '卐', which represents the eternal power of Buddha. More often that not, clouds will gather above the peak, so clear days are thought to be a blessing because local residents can get an unimpeded view.

Legend has it that a high lama named Milarepa competed with Naro Bonchung, the leader of Bon, for supernatural power. Milarepa was triumphant and thus the mountain came under the guidance of Buddhism. However, the mountain is also said to be the gathering place of masses of gods, among which are the highest gods of Hinduism. So it is no surprise that many pilgrims of different faiths visit here. Walking around the mountain is a popular ceremony despite the length and difficult terrain.

According to the sayings of Buddhism, one circle around the mountain can atone for all the sins committed throughout one's lifetime. Completing ten circles around the mountain will prevent eternal damnation of hell tribulation in one's reincarnations of 500 years. Completing one hundred circles will make a person one with Buddha. While walking, Buddhists follow clockwise while Bonists proceed in a counter-clockwise direction. In the horse year when Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, is said to be born, worshippers get credit for thirteen circles for every one completed. Naturally, these years draw the largest number of tourists.

Manasorovar Lake

Picture of Manasorovar Lake

Lake Mansarova lies about 20 km (12.43 mi.) southeast of Mt. Kailash. It means 'Invincible Jade Lake' in Tibetan. The name originates from a story that Buddhism wins a victory against Bon in a religious match beside the lake. The lake is the same 'Jade Pool of Western Kingdom' described by the high monk Xuanzang of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) in his Westward Diary.

The altitude of the lake is about 4,588 meters (15,052.49 ft.), making it one of the highest fresh water lakes in the world. The water is very limpid and bright.

The Hindu legend has that it is the amrita designed by the great god Brahma that can wash away all one's sins as well as any anxiety or improper thoughts. Many pilgrims bathe in the lake and take some water back as a gift to their relatives and friends. The surrounding area is the point of origin for India's two most famous rivers, the Indus and the Ganges. Walking around the lake also has ceremonial value for the Tibetan and always follows clockwise. There are many temples along the way, the two most notable being the Jiwu and the Chugu.

Zhada Earthen Forest

Picture of Zhada Earthen Forests

Zhada means "the place where there are grass in the lower reaches of river". Zhada is a County under the administration of Nagri Prefecture. The famous Thoing Monastery and Guge Kingdom stand there. Entering into Zhada County, the clay forest standing on both sides of Shiquanhe River wind over more than 5km. Some clay are like the warrior defending the mountain top, some like thousands of horses galloping, and some like devout followers of a religion cultivating themselves, standing there quietly. From different view, you can get different mavelous scenery.

Guge Kingdom

Picture of Guge Kingdom

Ruins of Guge Kingdom are the Old Summer Palace of Tibet. While these ruins were once an imperial estate which fell into disrepair after the civil revolt and the invasion of the allied armies of eight foreign countries, the Guge kingdom also encountered civil strife and foreign attacks which fragmented the once prosperous state.

However, the legendary kingdom hasn't been totally lost as much can be learned about it from its remains. Established in about the 10th century, the Guge Kingdom was founded by one branch of descendants of a nearby crumbled Kingdom. It was ruled by about 16 kings with armies of tens of thousands of soldiers during the over 700 years in which it flourished.

The kingdom advocated Buddhism, and many versions of this religion were created here and their teachings were spread from here into the heart of Tibet. The kingdom also served as a major center for Tibet's foreign trade.The Ruins of Guge Kingdom now extend around the sides of a mountain more than 300m. (984 ft.) high. Explorers have found over 400 rooms and 800 caves here, as well as some fortresses, secret paths, pagodas, arm storerooms, granaries and all kinds of burial places.

Perhaps the most interesting aspects of the Ruins are the five temples and palaces - the White Temple, Red Temple, Samsara Temple, Imperial Palace, and Assembly Palace. Many inscriptions, statues and murals are displayed inside these. The most complete and valuable artifacts remaining are the murals, which are mainly pictures of Sakyamuni, the king, queen, prince and other royal servants. Beside, in the sanctuary pictures of the cultivation of male and female Esoteric Buddhas can be found. The margins are painted with dozens of nude Dakinis. The colors and lines of the murals can be compared with those of the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang City, Gansu Province. Most of the statues here are golden and silver Buddhist statues, among these the Silver Eyes of Guge is of the highest achievement.

How to get in?

By Plane

Ngari Gunsa Airport was officially opened in July, 2010. Now two cities have flights flying to Shiquanhe, Ngari, one is capital city Lhasa of Tibet, and the other one from Kashgar, Xinjiang.

Lhasa-Ngari Flight TV9807 07:00-09:00

Kashgar-Ngari Flights MU2131 09:00-10:35 & 8L9681 10:30-12:00

By road

Travel to Ngari by road is from Kashgar, Xinjiang, Lhasa, Tibet and the border Kyirong, or Zhangmu, a border town between Nepal and Tibet.

Best Time to Come to Travel Ngari

The best time to come is May, June, September and October. It is not advisable to go there in July and August, the rainy season.

It is cold and dry in Ngari and it seldom rains. There is a major difference the day and night-time temperatures in the area with an altitude of above 5,000 meters. In August, the average temperature during the daytime is above 10 degrees. But it is below zero during the night.

In Ngari, it is high in the north and south and low in the middle. It is relatively warm in the south in Burang and Zhada County, which are the major farm belt in Ngari. It is cold and dry in the area around Shiquanhe Town in the north.

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