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Travel in Qinghai


Gyêgu (Jié gǔ zhèn 结古镇) is the modern town which developed from the old Tibetan trade mart called Jyekundo (also known as skye dgu mdo, skye rgu mdo) in Tibetan. It is the heart of both Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (yù shù zàng zú zì zhōu 玉树藏族自治州) and Yushu County (yù shùxiàn 玉树县). The present name Gyêgu is derived from Jyekundo. The town is most commonly called by the name of the prefecture or county, Yushu, of which it is the administrative seat.


GyêguThe Tibetan designation skye dgu mdo indicates that it is a place where one valley opens into another one (mdo), here formed by two tributaries of the Jyegu river (Jié gǔ hé 结古河), Dza Chu (zhā qǔ hé 扎曲河) and Pel Chu. Since skye dgu also means men, mankind or all beings, the name could be interpreted as the ‘dwelling place of men at a valley junction’. Chinese maps show the "main" river flowing through the town (coming from the south, and then turning to the east, toward theTongtian River (tōng tiān hé 通天河), after taking on a tributary in Gyêgu as the Batang River (bā táng hé 巴塘河).

Geographical situation
The town is reached by a two day car ride on China National Highway 214 - a good, mostly metalled road leading all the way from Xining (820 km), the provincial capital, via the Sun and Moon Pass, Gonghe-Chabcha of Hainan prefecture (海南藏族自治州) and Madoi (玛多) in Golog (果洛藏族自治州) across the Bayankara Mountains (巴颜喀拉山), 25 km before arriving at Gyêgu, the Dri Chu (Yangtse river) is crossed.

In 2007 the construction of an airstrip was begun. The facility, named Yushu Batang Airport, was opened on August 1, 2009. Located 18 kilometers to the south of the town at the 3,890 meters elevation about the sea level, this the highest airport in Qinghai Province. The airport has a 3,800 meter-long runway, and can receive A319 aircraft. The passenger terminal is designed to serve up to 80,000 passengers per year. The official 2009 statistics show that the airport served 7,484 passengers during 2009, the first (incomplete) year of its operation.

Given the fact that almost the entire area of the Yushu region is a realm of nomadic pastoralists, Gyêgu is one of the few places in this part of the vast Tibetan highlands where permanent settlement proved to provide a livelihood for Tibetan farmers and traders. Here, at an elevation of 3,700 m above sea level, peasants grow barley on riverside fields.

History & Traditional Culture


MonasticismGyêgu, like most parts of Yushu prefecture, is rich in Buddhist monasteries. Being a constituent of the late Nangchen kingdom, the area was, for most of the time, not under domination by the Dalai Lama’s Gelugpa order in Lhasa  (lā sà 拉萨). The different balance of power in this part of Kham enabled the older Tibetan Buddhist orders to prevail in Yushu, and thus Gyêgu. The main lamasery in town is the Sakyapa monastery Doendrub Ling, commonly just called Yushu Gompa.

Other nearby monastic sites include the important Karma-Kagyupa lamaseries Domkar Gompa and Thrangu Gompa, the famous Mahavairocana Temple (often called Wencheng Temple) and the popular religious site of Gyanamani with its billions of mani stones.

TemplePrior to collectivization in 1958, the entire monastic population of present-day Yushu TAP amounted to more than 25,000 Buddhist monks and nuns, with approximately 300 incarnate lamas among them. On the average about three to five per cent of the population were monastic, with a strikingly higher share in Nangqên county, where monks and nuns made up between 12 and 20 % of the community.

Gyêgu Tibetan Khampa Festival

Gyêgu Tibetan Khampa FestivalSince many different kinds of goods for trade and barter were brought in from all directions, the town became the residence of many of the richest families in the entire Tibetan highland. This wealth was and is demonstrated on two major occasions: the Tibetan New Year Festival (zàng lì xīn nián 藏历新年) and Gyêgu Horse Festival. The Horse Festival starts on each 25 July and lasts for several days. During the festival the colorful appliqué tents so typical for Tibetan summer outings cover the grasslands of the Bathang plain or the horse race grounds in the west of the town, with Khampas from all over Yushu prefecture, and even farther, showing off in between time and watching picturesque folk dances.


Lebagou Cliff Paintings
Lebagou Cliff PaintingsMani Stone Inscription (mó ní shí kè 摩尼石刻) lies in Batang Village, 20 kilometres away from Yushu County. Firstly carved 1,300 years ago, it was also called "The Valley of Buddha Statues" and "Sutra Valley". Mani stone mounds, 108 Buddha pagodas and cliff paintings are all pronounced religious cultural atmosphere. They are startling cultural sight of huge stones and the provincial cultural heritage under special protection. At the mouth of the valley is the stone inscription of pilgrimage in Tang Dynasty. All over the mountains and plains in the valley are Mani stones carved with Buddha statues, the sutras and six-character maxims. On the ten-metre high cliffs are all carved with Mani sutras. The rock paintings are engraved on the cliffs, with facile lines and fine configuration. The main figures of the paintings are individual images, such as Buddha, Bodhisattva, pilgrims, ladies-in-waiting, portraits of provider and lucky animals, of salient Han features in Tang Dynasty. For its mysterious stone sutra, Lebagou Cliff Paintings (lè bā gōu yán huà 勒巴沟岩画) -Mani Stone Inscription has become an important scenic spot in Qinghai Province.

Location: In Batang Village, 20 km away from Yushu County
Tel: 0991-2218118
Transportation: Pick up a car in Jyekundo and drive to Lebagou Cliff Paintings
Opening Hours: 9:00am-22:00pm
Admission Fee: CNY12

Mani stones
Mani stonesMani stones (mǎ ní duī 玛尼堆) are stone plates, rocks and/or pebbles, inscribed with the six syllabled mantra of Avalokiteshvara (Om mani padme hum, hence the name "Mani stone"), as a form of prayer in Tibetan Buddhism. The term Mani stone may also be used in a loose sense to refer to stones on which any mantra or devotional designs (such as ashtamangala) are inscribed. Mani stones are intentionally placed along the roadsides and rivers or placed together to form mounds or cairns or sometimes long walls, as an offering to spirits of place or genius loci. Creating and carving mani stones as devotional or intentional process art is a traditional sadhana of piety to yidam. Mani stones are a form of devotional cintamani.

Along the paths of regions under the influence of Tibetan Buddhism the traveller is often confronted with Mani walls. These stone structures are a compilation intricately carved stone tablets, most with the inscription "Om Mani Padme Hum" which loosely translates to "Hail to the jewel in the lotus". These walls should be passed or circumvented from the left side, the clockwise direction in which the earth and the universe revolve, according to Buddhist doctrine.

They are sometimes close to a temple or chorten, sometimes completely isolated and range from a few metres to a kilometre long and one to two metres high. They are built of rubble and sand and faced with mani stones engraved in the elegant Tibetan script.

Location: In Xinzhai Village, nine kilometers east of Gyêgu
Tel: 400-0003400
Transpotation: Pick up a car in Jyekundo and drive to Mani stones
Opening Hours: The whole day

Princess Wencheng Temple
Princess Wencheng TemplePrincess Wencheng (wén chéng gōng zhù 文成公主) 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 fromSongtsän Gampo (sōng zàn gàn bù 松赞干布) 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
Transpotation: Take Bus No. 2 in Jyekund
Opening Hours: The whole day
Admission Fee: CNY15