The next stop of the journey was the Labrang monastery (拉卜愣寺) in Xiahe (夏河), which is situated in the south of Gansu, 2920m above sea level.
The rising sun sends pilgrims out to circle the 3km kora (pilgrim path) that rings the monastery.
With its succession of squeaking prayer wheels (3km in total), hawks circling overhead and the throb of Tibetan longhorns resonating from the surrounding hills, Labrang is a monastery town unto itself.
The monastery is just huge and has many things to discover. The smell of yak-butter lamps is in the air wherever you step and you meet pilgrims from all over the country to pray here. The labrang monastery itself was founded in 1709. At its peak Labrang hosted nearly 4000 monks. Currently, 1600 monks live here,mainly drawn from Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and inner Mongolia.
The tour around that monastery was really interesting, I paid 40¥ and got access to most of the places inside.
After the tour, the monks living in the monastery invited me to a very interesting discussion with them. Mainly we discussed about the different pout of views when it comes to how to reach the state of happiness. The discussion was not superficial at all, we discussed for 90 minutes and it was enough to enlighten myself a little and understand the Buddhism way of pursuing happiness, which is basically by getting rid of all your desires, find yourself and get independent from exogenous influences.
The monks are super clever, they learn different languages, they have different colleges for medicine, arts etc. and they are are super open for chats with people with other (western) educational background.
In the evening, I met some friendly Tibetan local guys, that also spoke Mandarin, and we climbed a the small mountain next to the monastery to see the place from above.
As lunch, I had Zamba (sorry, I don’t know how to write that correctly, just know the pronunciation), a Tibetan dish. It’s hard to describe, since it looks like stone, feels like mud, and tastes like cookies. Recommendable though!
Due to the earthquake I delayed my plans in order to avoid the aftershocks. I went to some grassland 12km from the monastery and just relaxed for a day.
I also found this super interesting construction: the monks use the sunlight to cook their tea. When I approached the tea pot, I could hear the water boiling loudly.
That’s it from the Labrang monastery. My next destination was the Langmusi monastery right at the boarder between Gansu and Sichuan, closer to the place of the earthquake. Stay tuned!