Another View from the Roof of World--Alternative Tibet in Sichuan

2016/07/21 -- Annie

With epic mountain vistas, lively Buddhist monasteries, and grasslands peppered with yaks and alpine lakes as far as the eye can see, Tibet is without a doubt, one of the most remarkable places to visit in the world. But the paperwork required to get here can be daunting. Fortunately, Sichuan province offers similar beauty and culture with less red tape

Foreigners must file for permits and sign on with an organised tour before stepping into Tibet proper, also known as China’s Xizang province. But Sichuan offers a viable alternative, and all you need to get here is a Chinese tourist visa. Within Sichuan's borders are the Ganzi and Aba Autonomous Prefectures, a combined territory that corresponds roughly with the Kham, one of old Tibet’s three provinces and home to more than a dozen distinct Tibetan and other tribes.

 Celebrate rebirth: Litang

At a dizzying 4014m, Litang is one of the highest settlements in the world. To Tibetans, it is also known as the 'birthplace of holy men', the seventh and 10th Dalai Lamas among them, and so this small-but-exalted town offers a rare glimpse into some of the oldest rites of Tibetan religious culture.

Among the hills behind the largest monastery, Chöde Gompa, visitors are permitted to witness sky burials (Jhator), a funerary ritual where bodies of the dead are cut into pieces before massive vultures descend to consume them. The bodies have already undergone a series of rituals, including prayers read from the Book of the Dead to guide the soul back to rebirth, so this final step is seen as an act of compassion for the birds and evokes solemn joy among loved ones.

You must have the permission of the monastery to attend, so ask your guesthouse to help make the arrangements. If you do attend a sky burial, always remember what you are watching and treat the rites, and all those involved, with the utmost respect. Never take photos.

Gallop through the grasslands: Songpan

In the friendly historic town of Songpan in northwest Sichuan, horses have been the stock and trade since the days of the Tea Horse Road, an ancient route for transporting tea to India. The horse trekking guides here have generations of Tibetan horsemanship in their blood and are skilled at leading travellers on treks astride small, nimble horses with just as much history in their veins.

Make a pilgrimage trek : Yading Reserve

Of all of Tibet’s sacred mountains, the three snow-capped peaks in the magnificent Yading Nature Reserve, in the southwest part of the province, are among the most sacred,seond only Chomolungma, better kown as Mt.Everest
The three peaks -- Chenresig, Chana Dorje and Jampelyang -- represent “compassion”,”power”and “wisdom” in Tibetan Buddhsim, and for the past 800 years, disciples have dedicated themselves to circling them to demonstrate their devotion. Walking the 35km holy hike(kora) around the hightest, 6032m-high Chenresig, requires bringing your own gear to camp overnight. If you don’t have the time (or energy) for a full circuit, other opportunities for shorter hikes, camping, and horse trekking near these peaks abound.

Ponder with monks and nuns in training: Seda

The Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in China has basic amenities for the 40,000 monks and nuns who stay there, The secluded location is 370 miles from Chengdu and has grown dramatically since its creation. 

A vibrant splash of red, this colourful settlement has sprung up in the 1980s and is now a haven for over 40,000 monks and nuns. 

Sky burials are common in the province of Tibet and involve corpses being cut and left for animals to devour.The human bodies are placed on mountaintops in order for the elements or predatory animals, typically vultures, to prey upon it. The majority of Tibetans and many Mongolians adhere to Vajrayana Buddhism, which teaches the transmigration of spirits. They believe after death the body is an empty vessel and there is no need to preserve it. By allowing nature or animals to take command of the body, they are disposing of the remains in the most generous way. In many areas of Tibet and Qinghai, the ground is too hard and rocky to dig a grave, and, due to the scarcity of fuel and timber, sky burials were typically more practical. 

ps:   Seda 's currently under maintenance , all the Foreigners are not allowed to enter this area. so we change to Yarchen Gar Monastery. 

It lies in an isolated valley 4000m above sea level. The monastery is associated with the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. With more than 10,000 Sangha members now, it’s the largest concentration of nuns and monks in the world. Most of the Sanghas are nuns.

It lie 400 km west of Chenegdu, in the old Tibetan province of Kham. It is reported to have 10,000 monks and nuns, making it possibly the largest monastery in the world. Larung Gar is even larger, but is considered a monastic encampment rather than a monastery.Due to the remoteness of the institute and the bad condition of roads leading there, Yarchen Gar sees very few tourists.

Sertar--The largest Buddhist settlement in the world

Sichuan Tibet overland tour

The settlement has grown from a handful of disciples in the 1980s to become one of the largest centres for the study of Tibetan Buddhism

Sichuan Tibet overland tour

Monks pray inside the biggest temple of the town. Inside, children and adults gather on the floor to sing songs. Visitor are welcomed into the monastery to learn and witness the classes. Sertar attracts a mix of students from ethnic Chinese students to pupils from Taiwan, Hongkang, Singapore and Malaysia. 

Travelling in Tibetan Sichuan is often a test of patience, though if you can endure the bumpy rides and poorly-kept roads, you are rewarded with some of the world's most spectacular scenery. Chengdu is the Sichuan's transit hub and is the best base for reaching all of these sights, though that's not to say transport is easy. Once travellers are west of Kangding, bumpy rides in small buses and vans are the only option for reaching most of these sights, and many roads are in poor shape or under construction. Weather conditions are unpredictable at high elevations, and hazards ranging from landslides to overturned semis are common.

While the majority of travellers have great experiences, we recommend booking a trip with the help of local Sichuan's capital city,Chengdu, before you go. This will help you negotiate details and terms that might not translate culturally, such as a refund should the weather change. Order RedEarth Sichuan Tibet Overland Tour Now!