Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture: Xiahe (甘南藏族自治州: 夏河)

Xiahe (夏河) is a small county town 240km southwest of Lanzhou, capital of Gansu Province, Northwest China. It is located in the part of Gansu populated by ethnic Tibetans – only half of the Tibetan population in China live in Tibet Autonomous Region.

In the world of Tibetan Buddhism, Xiahe’s Labrang Monastery (拉卜楞寺) is one of the six greatest Gelugpa (or Yellow Hat) sect monasteries, and is home to many great Buddhist monasteries universities. It is for this reason that some call Labrang the Oxford and Beida of Tibetan Buddhism. More than a hundred living Buddhas are educated at Labrang at any one time. 

Among independent travellers, Xiahe has the reputation of a sleepy, friendly Tibetan town in the highlands, far away from the maddening crowds of huge Chinese metropolises. Round the clock, one sees pilgrims prostrating themselves towards the shiny golden rooftops of the monasteries, while others walked along the outer parameters of the monastic complex, pushing along prayer wheels. In the outskirts of the town are green pastures where nomads still wander around in imagery not too different from centuries back.