Located in a deep gorge to the west of Chola Mountain, Dege (སྡེ་དགེ།) is one of Tibet’s most revered and remote places. It’s found in the far northwestern Sichuan Provence very close to the boarder of Xizang Provence (modern “Tibet”). Dege (aka Derge) is home to the most important printing press in all of Tibet, the Barkhang (Parkhang) Scripture Printing House.
Dege is a full day’s bus ride from the nearest town, Ganze. Basically, you need to drive all the way around the formidable Chola Mountain and sometimes you’ll think the bus is driving straight over it. A perilous dirt road winds up and over Tro La (Chola) Pass at nearly 6000m (19,6850ft) – a lot higher than Mt Everest Base Camp! The views from the bus will leave you breathless in more ways than one.
Founded in 1729, the Barkhang (Parkhang) Scripture Printing House is the main attraction of Dege. The press is one of the three most holy places in Tibetan Buddhism (along with the Potala Palace and Sakya Monastery) and people will travel here from all over Tibet to walk holy koras (circular holy walks) around it.
The town is quaint, with a mixture of traditional houses and new Chinese style concrete buildings. I found the locals to be very friendly and welcoming, and a little curious to travelers who are walking around independently. It’s seems that most of the tourists here are the Chinese package tour style, or foreigners in 4x4s headed to deeper Tibet. If you’re traveling by bus, Dege is at the end of a long spur of a road. While it continues into Tibet, foreigners are not allowed to go this route without a tour guide. I assume that most independent travelers don’t want to spend a hard day on the public bus getting there, just to turn around and go back the way they came.
As I wandered the streets, I came upon a group of people building a traditional house. They were singing and laughing and just having a good time so I hung around and showed my interest in what they were doing. As usual, they were as curious about me as I was of them and they invited me to hang out with them. Showing them the pictures on the back of my digital camera had the usual results and they posed (or hid) from the camera with great excitement.
After leaving Dege, I found out that it’s one of the best places in all of China to do some hiking. There are both day trails and trails that cut back to Manigango and have convenient guest houses at the end of each of the 3-4 day hike.
Cheers, the next stop is Yushu, in QingHai Provence.