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Home Travel in Qinghai Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture
Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture
Travel in Qinghai

Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture
Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (yù shù zàng zú zì zhì zhōu 玉树藏族自治州), commonly known as Yushu, is an autonomous prefecture of southwestern Qinghai province, Western China. Largely inhabited by Tibetans, the prefecture has an area of 188,794 square kilometers (72,894 sq mi) and its seat is located in the town of Gyêgu (jié gǔ zhèn 结古镇) in Yushu County (yù shù xiàn 玉树县), which is the place of the old Tibetan trade mart of Jyekundo. Yushu prefecture is broken up into 6 counties: Yushu, Nangqian (nāng qiān xiàn 囊谦县), Chengduo (chēng duō xiàn 称多县), Zadu (zá duō xiàn 杂多县), Zhiduo (zhì duō xiàn 治多县) and Qumalai (qū má lái  xiàn 曲麻莱县). The official source of the Yellow River lies within the prefecture. Historically, the area belongs to the cultural realm of Kham in eastern Tibet.


Yushu Yushu Tibet Autonomous Prefecture is famous across Tibet for containing the headwaters of three of Asia’s greatest rivers. The Mekong (Lancang Jiang in Chinese), Yellow River and Yangtze all start in Yushu. The Tibetans of Yushu are also famous for their dancing and for their annual horse festivals held each summer. The Jyekundo Horse Festival is held each year on July 25th and is one of the largest in Tibet. Yushu is also famous for being a stopover for King Songtsen Gampo (sōng zàn gàn bù 松赞干布) and his wife Princess Wencheng (wén chéng gōng zhù 文成公主) during the 7th century. The king and his wife stayed in Yushu while on their way to Lhasa from modern day Xi'an. There is a stupa in Lheba that was built by the attendants of Princess Wencheng. The stupa is over 1300 years old and is one of the oldest in Tibet.


Yushu was inhabited by the Qiang, an ancient tribe in northwest China. In its history, it was governed successively by several Tibetan regimes. Yushu Special District was established in 1949 and changed to Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Region two years later, then changed to an autonomous prefecture in 1955.

History of YushuYushu prefecture is rich in Buddhist monasteries. Being a constituent of the former Nangchen kingdom, the area was, for most of the time, not under domination by the Dalai Lama’s Gelugpa order in Lhasa. The different balance of power in this part of Kham enabled the older Tibetan Buddhist orders to prevail in Yushu. Of the 195 pre-1958 lamaseries only 23 belonged to the Gelugpa. An overwhelming majority of more than 100 monasteries followed and still follow the teachings of the various Kagyupa schools, with some of their sub-sects only found in this part of Tibet. The Sakyapa were and are also strong in Yushu, with many of their 32 monasteries being among the most significant in Kham. The Nyingmapa’s monastic institutions amount to about the same number, while the Bönpo are only met with in one lamasery they share with the Nyingmapa (níng mǎ bā 宁玛巴).

Prior 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 Nangchen county, where monks and nuns made up between 12 and 20 % of the community.


The prefecture enjoys a continental plateau climate with high altitude and cold climate as its most outstanding features. It has distinct warm and cold seasons, respectively lasting four to five and seven to eight months. The annual average temperature of this region is below zero (32℉).

Climate of YushuWith elevations above 3,600 meters (12,000 ft), the prefecture has a harsh climate, with long, cold winters, and short, rainy, and cool to warm summers. Specifically, in the Köppen system, the prefecture ranges from the alpine variation of the subarctic climate (Köppen Dwc), to a full alpine climate (Köppen EH), to a semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk). Most of the annual precipitation occurs from June to September, when on average, a majority of the days each month has some rainfall. The annual mean temperature in Yushu County, at an elevation of 3,690 meters (12,110 ft), is 3.22 °C (37.8 °F) and in Qumarlêb, in the northeast of the prefecture at 4,190 m (13,750 ft) elevation, 2.13 °C (28.2 °F). Sunshine is generous, ranging from around 2500 hours in the prefecture seat to 2780 hours in Qumarlêb (qǔ má lái xiàn 曲麻莱县).


Geography of YushuYushu Prefecture occupies most of the southwestern third of Qinghai, with the exception of the province’s extreme southwestern corner (Tanggulashan Town), which is an exclave of the Haixi Mongol and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Almost all of the prefecture is located in the uppermost part of the basins of three of Asia’s great rivers - the Yellow River, the Yangtze, and the Mekong, although in the remote areas of the far west of the prefecture (the Hoh Xil plateau), and along its northern borders, there are some endorheic basins as well. A significant portion of the prefecture's territory is incorporated into the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve (sān jiāng yuán guó jiā zì rán bǎo hù qū 三江源国家自然保护区), intended to protect the headwaters of the three great rivers.

Most of the prefecture's population lives in its southeastern part: primarily in the valley of the upper Yangtze (whose section within the prefecture is known in Chinese as the Tongtian River, in Tibetan as Drichu, and some also in the valley of the Mekong (the Dzachu in Tibetan, zhā qǔ 扎曲). The highlands away from these two rivers, as well as the western part of the prefecture, have very little population.


Source of Three Rivers

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.

Location: In the south of Qinghai Province
Tel: 0971-8247377 or 0971-8250294
Transportation: Take the coach from Xining to Maduo Country. Then go to Gyêgu Town by bus.
Admission Fee: CNY 80
Recommended Golden Season: April, May, November, December

Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve

In the severe and harsh environment, Hoh Xil (kě kě xī lǐ 可可西里) is a paradise of wildlife. There are more than one hundred species of rare wild animal living in the cold, high land of Yushu. This sacred and magical land is perfect for scientific research, travel and exploration. With a total area of 45,000 square km, Hoh Xil was approved as state level nature reserve by the country in December 1996, intending to protect the unique natural views and plateau rare animals.

Hoh Xil Hoh Xil natural reserve is one of the national and the world's plateau lakes most densely populated. The most famous among them are Hoh Xil Lake, Sun Lake and Xuelian Lake. Inside the reserve, you can find 16 kinds of mammals, of which 11 kinds are unique of Qinghai-Tibet plateau; 46 kinds of birds, of which 7 kinds are unique of the plateau. You can also find a dozen of Level A and B animals. The number of wildlife reaches 30-40 thousand heads, the largest in China. Hoh Xil is as a result called “paradise of plateau wildlife” and “kingdom of wildlife”.

Location: In the northwest of Yushu Tibetan Prefecture of Qinghai Province
Tel: 0971-6365075
Opening Hours: 8:00-17:00
Admission Fee: CNY 10

Lebagou Rock Paintings

Lebagou Rock PaintingsLebagou Rock Paintings (lè bā gōu yán huà 勒巴沟岩画) are located on the bank of the Tongtian River in the region of Yushu Prefecture. Walk alone the small mountain path on the bank of Tongtian River to come here and the noise and grandness of Tongtian River contracting to the quietness and holiness of the Lebagou Rock Paintings will give you to two totally different experience. Lebagou Rock Paintings are caved on the rock facing the river and is lying at the entrance of the Lebagou ravine. The verdant plants here can not hide the mysterious atmosphere diffused by the Rock Paintings and the numerous Mani stones that scatters everywhere in the ravine. From the Sakyamuni figure made in the late period of Tang Dynasty at the entrance of the ravine to the Mani stones carved now, you will see the whole caving history of the Tibetan religion.

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: CNY 12

Jiegu Temple

Jiegu TempleIt lies in the Mutameimashan Mountain (mù tā méi mǎ shān 木它梅玛山) in the east of Gyêgu Town and belongs to the Sakya School of temple of the formal Zawu tribe in this area. It is said that long time ago there were a temple of Ben School. The Grant Lama Dangqinwa (dāng qīn wā 当钦哇) built Jiegu Temple on the base of the former buildings. In the history Jiegu Temple, being the main temple of Sakya School in the north area of Yushu, was famous for its grand buildings, its large number of Buddhists and its plenty of cultural relics and many famous persons were all come from here. The whole temple was set according to the run of the mountain and the well-arranged halls and meditation abodes looks like lofty multi-leveled pavilions in a far view.

Location: Situated in the north of Gyêgu Town
Tel: 0976-8826828
Transportation: Get to Gyêgu Temple by taxi from Jiegu Town at the cost of CNY 10.
Opening Hours: 8:00-17:00
Admission Fee: CNY 10

Horse Racing Festivals

Horse racing festivalsHorse racing festivals (sài mǎ jié 赛马节) are the most popular sport game in the grasslands of Yushu. The grandest one is held annually on 25th, July, lasting one week. The site is in Zhaxike (zhā xī kē 扎西科), which is only three kilometers from Jiegu Town. The weeklong spectacular Horse Festival commences on July 25, on a grassy plain south of town. Colorful Tibetan tents surround the racecourse where more than 10,000 people converge to barter and enjoy the celebrations at this Horse Racing Festival. Shows of horsemanship skills, including archery on horseback and racing, are the main theme. Of course the Tibetans never call for the day without singing and dancing. The Tibetans bring their traditional nomadic tent made of black yak hair tents and these colorful appliqué affairs are sometimes bigger than houses.

Location: In Zhaxike, three kilometers from Gyêgu Town
Tel: 0971-6155998
Opening Time: July 25 to August 1

Food & Specialty


MuskMusk (shè xiāng 麝香) is a class of aromatic substances commonly used as base notes in perfumery. They include glandular secretions from animals such as the musk deer, numerous plants emitting similar fragrances, and artificial substances with similar odors. Musk was a name originally given to a substance with a penetrating odor obtained from a gland of the male musk deer. The substance has been used as a popular perfume fixative since ancient times and is one of the most expensive animal products in the world. The name, originated from Sanskrit muṣká meaning “testicle”, has come to encompass a wide variety of substances with somewhat similar odors although many of them are quite different in their chemical structures. Modern use of natural musk pods occurs in traditional Chinese medicine. Yushu musk is among the most valuable Chinese herbal medicine. Its annual output is less than 150 kilogram.

Yak Whip

Yak WhipYak whip (máo niú biān 牦牛鞭)also known as cattle kidney, Qinghai yak whip for the subject animals yak penis and testicles. Yak whip is not only contains rich protein, fat, font steroid hormone, vitamin C, vitamin A and inorganic calcium, phosphorus, iron high nutrition food, and because contain testosterone and other natural steroid hormone, can promote male genital development and keep their normal functions, but also having senile male kidney Yang, enhance sexual the excellent treasures.

Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture

Location: Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture is situated in the southwest region of Qinghai Province, neighboring Sichuan in the southeast, Xinjiang in the northwest corner and Tibet in the south and southeast. Within Qinghai, it is bounded on the north by the Haixi Mongol and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and neighbors the Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in the east.
Transportation: Having Jiegu Town as a center, a transportation network has gradually been created within Yushu Prefecture, with national highways as the main framework, supported by developing country roads. From these roads, visitors can get directly to Xining, Lanzhou or places in Sichuan Province. The bus station in Jiegu Town is situated in Shengli Lu (shèng lì lù 胜利路) and regular buses to Jiegu Town can be found in Xining's long-distance bus station in Jianguo Lu (jiàn guó lù 建国路).
Recommended Golden Season: June through October
Travel Tips: Yushu Prefecture is vast. Renting a vehicle to travel around may be a better choice if visitors travel by themselves. Private jeeps and minibuses are available in the central square of Jiegu Town.
Tourist Complaints: 0976-8822521