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Home Travel in Qinghai Source of Three Rivers
Source of Three Rivers
Travel in Qinghai

Source of Three Rivers

The Source of Three Rivers (sān jiāng yuán 三江源) is situated in Qinghai Province (qīng hǎi shěng 青海省) which is located in the northeast of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (qīng zàng gāo yuán 青藏高原), with an average altitude of 4,000 meters. It covers the headstreams of China's three most known rivers: Yangtse River (cháng jiāng 长江), Yellow River (huáng hé 黄河) and Lancang River (lán cāng jiāng 澜沧江), hence the name. There are 16 countries and one town in this area, with a gross area of 36.3 square kilometers, which account for 50.4% of the whole province area. Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve (sān jiāng yuán zì rán bǎo hù qū 三江源自然保护区) was established in May, 2000. The State Council of China formally approved it as a national nature reserve in January of 2003.


Sanjiangyuan Nature ReserveThe Source of Three Rivers is known as the Water Tower of China. Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve has four distinct features: 1) It is the largest nature reserve in China, whose area is twice as much as that of Shandong Province (shān dōng shěng 山东省); 2) It is the natural wetland who has the highest elevation, with an average altitude of 4,000 meters; 3) It is the high-altitude region where there is the richest biodiversity, with more than 70 protected wild animals inhabiting here; 4) It has one of the most sensitive and weak ecosystem.

Natural Scenery

Tongtian River

Tongtian RiverKnown as Yak River (máo niú hé 牦牛河) in ancient times, Tongtian River is a big river which run across Qinghai region. It is famous for a myth novel which is called the Journey to the West (xī yóu jì 西游记) written by Wu Cheng'en (wú chéng ēn 吴承恩), a novelist in Ming Dynasty. There is a huge rock which is called Shaijingshi (shài jīng shí 晒经石) on the south bank of Tongtian River Bridge (tōng tiān hé dà qiáo 通天河大桥). Rumor has it as that Tangseng (tang sēng 唐僧, an eminent Chinese monk in history) was sent to India to obtain Buddhist scriptures with his disciples. They forgot to live up to the expectations of the old tortoise that lives in Tongtian River. As a result, they are turned over into the water when the old tortoise carried them across the river. Tangseng had to unfolded all the Buddhist scriptures on the Shaijingshi to let them dry in the sun. There is still writing in that rock despite this story originated from a myth.

Location: In the center of Qinghai-Xizang Plateau 
Transportation: Take the coach or jeep in Skye dgu mdo
Recommended Golden Season: Summer
Admission Fee: Free


NgoringHuNgoringHu (è líng hú 鄂陵湖) is a large highland light saltwater lake on the upper reaches of the Yellow river. It is called Cuo’e’lang (cuò è lǎng 错鄂朗) in Tibetan, which means “blue and long lake”. It is one of the most important breeding colonies for the cormorant, bar-headed goose, ruddy shelduck, brown head gull and fish gull.

NgoringHu is located in the west of Madoi County (mǎ duō xiàn 玛多县), Qinghai Province. It is 15 kilometers away from Gyaring Lake (zhā líng hú 扎陵湖). The two lakes are together known as twin lakes at the source of the Yellow River. The shape of NgoringHu is like golden bell. It is separated from the Gyaring Lake by a natual levee, and the two lakes looks like a butterfly from the air. The Yellow River carries little sediment into the NgoringHu, so its lake water shows green blue color. NgoringHu abounds with cold-water alepidote fish. Migratory birds cluster on the islands in the center of the lake. And the Lakeside subalpine meadow is one of the most important pastures in Qinghai.

Besides, NgoringHu is the place where Songtsän Gampo (sōng zàn gànbù 松赞干布) married Princess Wencheng (wén chéng gōng zhù 文成公主) in history.

Location: In south-central Qinghai Province
Tel: 0975-8383842   
Transportation: Take sport utility vehicle in Sining or jeep in Madoi County
Recommended Golden Season: Summer
Admission Fee: Free

Cultural Scenery

Princess Wencheng Temple

Princess Wencheng TemplePrincess Wencheng was a niece of the powerful Emperor Taizong of China's Tang Dynasty, who left China in 640, according to records, arriving the next year in Tibet to marry the thirty-seven year old Songtsän Gampo (605?–650 CE) the thirty-third king of the Yarlung Dynasty of Tibet, in a marriage of state as part of a peace treaty along with large quantities of gold. She is popularly known in Tibet as Gyasa, or 'Chinese wife'. The princess is portrayed as a Buddhist and, along with Songtsän Gampo's Nepalese wife, Bhrikuti Devi, is said to have introduced Buddhism to Tibet. The details regarding Wencheng are scarce and there is uncertainty amongst historians as to whether she truly existed.

The Chinese records mention receiving an envoy in 634 from Songtsän Gampo wherein the king requested to marry a Chinese princess and was refused. In 635/636 the Tibetan king's forces attacked and defeated the A zha people (tǔ yù hún 吐谷浑), who lived around Lake Koko Nor in present-day Qinghai, along an important trade route into China. After a campaign against China (during which Chinese won) the Chinese emperor agreed to marry a Chinese princess to king Songtsän Gampo as part of the diplomatic settlement. As a marriage of state, the union must be considered a success as peace between China and Tibet prevailed for the remainder of Songtsen Gampo's reign.

Location: Princess Wencheng Temple is found 20km south of Jyekundo.
Tel: 0976-8822521
Transportation: Pick up a car in Jyekundo and drive to Princess Wencheng Temple
Opening Hours: The whole day
Admission Fee: CNY15

Palyul Monastery

Palyul MonasteryLocated on the grand hill in the north side of Baiyu town of Tibet, Palyul Monastery (bái yù sì白玉寺) is a famous Nyingmapa temple built in 1675. Palyul in Tibetan means “auspicious land”. With average elevation of 3,030 meters, the monastery is surrounded by mountains and forests. The whole landscape appears rather peaceful and tranquil.
The monastery consists of three stories. In the first story, the statue of Padma Sambhava is standing in the center, with 25 famous Buddhists and 107 tertons’ portraits painted on the wall; in the second story, the bronze statue of Four-armed Avalokitesvara Bidhisattva and many well-known Buddists’ portraits are shown to the people; in the third story, the most important and influential Buddha, Amitabha Buddha’s statue is worshipped here.
During Tang Dynasty, when Princess Wencheng married to the king of Hun Nationality, she passed by Baiyu Town, and she inserted her aspen wood cane into the earth. Later on, the cane grew into a big tree. Now it is still in this monastery. In its heyday, it owned 108 big monasteries and over 2,000 small monasteries, being one of six famous Nyingmapa monasteries.
The Nianbaoyuze Mountain has been regarded as the holy mountain and the mysterious palace by local Tibetan people. There are rich culture and human sight resources besides beautiful nature landscape. In this area, cultures of Ningma sect, Gelu sect and Juexiang sect are well integrated. Palyul Monastery is Ningma sect’s temple, which has highest prestige in the Tibetan area of our country. It has produced important effects because of its long history, magnificent and unique building, rich collection and achievement in the development of religion. It also provides an important place for religious tourism and pilgrimage. Therefore, it has great value of tourism and religious research.

Location: Palyul Monastery is located in the southwest of Jigzhi County, Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province.
Recommended Golden Season:  Summer
Tel: 0971-6122987
Opening Hours: The whole day
Admission Fee: Free

Other Recommended Spots

Qinghai Lake

Qinghai LakeQinghai Lake (qīng hǎi hú, 青海湖) , formerly known as Koko Nur or Kukunor, is a saline lake situated in the province of Qinghai  (qīng hǎi shěng, 青海省) and is the largest lake in China. The names Qinghai and Koko Nur both mean "Blue/Teal Sea/Lake" in Chinese and Mongolian. It is located about 100 kilometres west of the provincial capital of Xining (xī níng, 西宁市) at 3,205 m (10,515 feet) above sea level in a depression of the Tibetan Plateau in the cultural area known to ethnic Tibetans as Amdo. Twenty-three rivers and streams empty into Qinghai Lake, most of them seasonal. Five permanent streams provide 80% of total influx.

Bird Island of Qinghai Lake

Bird Island of Qinghai Lake Bird Island (Niǎo Dǎo 鸟岛) encompasses two islands, one is Haixi Pi (Hǎixī Pí 海西皮) in the east, and in the west is the Haixi Shan (Haǐxī Shān 海西山) which is four times smaller than the former island but is where most of the birds of the lake congregate. When the spring and summer come, many birds fly from faraway mountains and deserts to breed here. In the noisiest months of April and May, their numbers can amount to ten thousand, 80% to 90% of which stop on the Haixi Shan (Haǐxī Shān 海西山).