The Jokhang Monastery (ཇོ་ཁང་) is the most holy of Tibetan Buddhism’s holy places. Unassuming from the outside, one needs to connect with the enthusiasm of the throngs of pilgrims walking around it to feel its allure. As it probably will be for you, visiting the Jokhang is a once in a lifetime experience for many of the pilgrims. Unlike you, many of these pilgrims walked to be there… and some of them even walked in a special way to show their devotion: They take three steps, say a prayer, and lie face-down on the ground. Then they stand up, take three more steps and repeat the process. The act of taking a prostrating pilgrimage can take the devotee years to reach the Jokhang from their home towns. But many do it, as a sign of devotion and a way to help improve their karma in this life and the next.
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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.
From Litang, I caught a bus (again, through some stunning scenery) to Xinduxiao where I had to transfer to a share cab going towards Tagong.
Tagong is known mostly for its beautiful grasslands.
It’s a town that has become very popular with both foreign and Chinese tourists because of it’s relative proximity to Kanding, a small city that’s a day’s drive to the southeast. One can easily arrive in town and set up a tour and home-stay with some of the nomads that live in the nearby grasslands.
Litang (ལི་ཐང།) is a small Tibetan town in western Sichuan Provence (四川), China. Traditionally known as the Kham (ཁམས) Provence of the former Tibetan Kingdom, Litang is a dusty trade town in a high, grassy valley.
At an altitude of 4,014 meters (13,169 ft) it’s actually higher than Lhasa and one of the highest towns in the world. Every summer, they hold one of Tibet’s biggest horse racing festivals, an event that draws Tibetans (and tourists) from all over.
Several famous Buddhists are from Litang including the 7th and the 10th Dalai Lama. It has a beautiful, huge monastery (Litang Chöde) up on the mountain side overlooking the town. This area has a long history of resistance to Chinese rule, from before the Chinese bombing of the monastery in 1956 to a recent riot at the horse racing festival in 2007. During the PLA’s invasion of Tibet in 1950, Litang County was one of the strongest areas of resistance.