In the east of Tibet nestles Chamdo, standing resolutely opposite Sichuan Province. Myanmar and Yunnan cushion its southeast, while Qinghai Province stretches to its north. Renowned as the eastern gateway of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Chamdo burgeons as a nexus for commerce and trade. Often hailed as the “Pearl of Eastern Tibet”, its economic trajectory is largely propelled by its rich mineral and water energy resources.
In the Tibetan lexicon, “Changdu” signifies the juncture where waters converge. The Zhaqu and Angqu waters meet at Chamdo, giving life to the Lancang River. This also elucidates the etymology of Chamdo.
The hydrology of Chamdo is characterized by its outflowing nature. The primary rivers encompass the Nujiang River, the Lancang River, and the Jinsha River, alongside their diverse tributaries. This convergence spotlights Chamdo as a vital reservoir for prominent rivers feeding both China and Southeast Asia. With its vast water networks feeding both the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the intricate river systems tell tales of old and new. Seasonal variances adorn the river waters, sprinkling rocky islets and shadowy arboreal silhouettes. Such captivating vistas echo tales of timeless beauty.
The Ranwu Lake, symbolic of serenity, is surrounded by diverse vistas – verdant meadows, dense woods, and iridescent pebbles. The lake’s banks mirror nature’s grandeur. Circumscribed by verdant pastures and snow-draped summits, the spectacle evokes masterful artwork. This scenic beauty offers an escape to realms of fantasy.
Meili Snow Mountain: This colossal snow-capped range sprawls from Zayu County in Tibet to Yunling Township in Yunnan. “Meili”, a linguistic rendition of the Tibetan “mainri”, alludes to its vast medicinal flora. As a spiritual heartland of the Yongzhong Bon faith, it’s revered alongside other peaks like Mount Kailash in Tibet and Mount Animaqing in Qinghai.
Nyachen Tangla Mountains: These tectonic wonders traverse the vastness of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Originating as an eastern continuum of the Gangdise Mountains, they meander southeastward. As per the annals of the Yongzhong Bon faith, Nyachen Tangla is a celebrated peak among sacred Tibetan summits. The vastness of Nyachen Tangla is further accentuated by modern glaciers. Covering a whopping 7,536 square kilometres, it stands as a testament to the grandeur of the southeastern Tibetan Plateau.
Chamdo, historically known as the cradle of Kham culture, takes pride in its rich and diversified cultural tapestry. The residents of Chamdo, often termed “Kham people” or “Kham men,” showcase a distinctive blend of traditions, stemming from the area they inhabit and their extensive social interactions.
Over the ages, the Kangba denizens of Chamdo have absorbed the quintessence of the Yellow River culture emanating from regions like Qinghai and Gansu. They’ve also embraced the Bashu and Yangtze River cultures of Sichuan and Chongqing. Additionally, they’ve been influenced by ethnic groups like Bai, Yi, Naxi, Tibetan, and Lisu from Yunnan. This medley of multi-ethnic influences has given rise to a unique culture in Chamdo, setting it apart from other Tibetan regions. This distinction is evident in various facets including language, attire, religious practices, folk customs, architectural styles, and grassroots cultural expressions.
Chamdo holds the honour of being a significant region where the revered Tibetan epic “The Life of King Gesar” originated and proliferated. The region boasts numerous esteemed rappers and master artists. Various artistic schools, each with its distinct flair, thrive here.
In the realm of Thangka art, the “Ga Xue Ga Zhi” painting school of Chamdo stands out. As for the clay sculpture, artists from Chamdo, Bienba, Chaya, and Gongjue are renowned. Stone carving artists from Chamdo, Chaya, Mangkham, and Jiangda have an unparalleled reputation. The woodcut sutra editions of Boluo Guze in Jiangda County are celebrated across Tibet, rightfully earning the title – the “hometown of woodcuts.”
This site is a treasure trove of primordial artefacts like stone axes, adzes, and pottery. Excavations have revealed 31 household ruins and unearthed myriad stone tools, bone implements, pottery fragments, and an extensive collection of animal bones and grains. These relics, dating back 4,000 to 5,000 years to the “Neolithic Period,” play a crucial role in understanding the evolution of Tibetan culture. They also shed light on the early Tibetan history and the nuances of Sino-Tibetan relations.
Perched on the sacred Zizhu Mountain in Dingqing County, eastern Chamdo, the Zizhu Temple stands approximately 4,800 meters above sea level. It’s not only among Tibet’s loftiest temples but also the most venerable and pivotal shrine of the Yongzhong Bon Religion. Established around three millennia ago, it has been handed down 43 generations.
The temple’s legacy is intertwined with Tibetan king Mutri Tsenpu and the first great master, Mubang Sadong. As per sacred texts, the Zizhu Temple is considered the spiritual realm of the Guanyin Bodhisattva. “Zizhu” translates to “six peaks,” symbolizing Guanyin Bodhisattva’s compassion and wisdom. These peaks represent the six paths of liberation and the six virtues: generosity, precepts, patience, diligence, meditation, and prajna. They serve as remedies against human frailties like greed, ignorance, anger, pride, jealousy, and misconceptions.
The Millennium Salt Well Ancient Salt Field in Chamdo, Tibet is not just a location—it’s a narrative etched in time. With a rich timeline spanning over 1,300 years, this globally unparalleled salt field symbolizes the harmony between man and nature. Jiada Village, with its heartwarming residents, has been the guardian of this legacy, weaving tales of abundance with nature’s bountiful gifts.
Set against Chamdo’s breathtaking backdrop, Jiada Village is where time slows down. The village is a living museum of traditional salt craftsmanship. As you stroll, be prepared to be enamoured by the vibrancy of life here: ancient trees stand as silent witnesses, colourful buildings resonate with stories, and every corner pulsates with an infectious zest for life.
Kissed by the sun, Chamdo’s salt fields shimmer in a spectrum of colours. They are history’s canvases painted with tales predating the Tubo Dynasty. The legendary salt wells of Mangkang Hill, part of the Duokang landscape, echo with ancient salt-making songs, showcasing traditions that have withstood the test of time.
If there’s one dish that captures Chamdo’s essence, it’s the Jiajia noodles. A symphony of taste, each bowl promises a singular, sumptuous mouthful. Dive deep into this culinary journey at Guolecong Nongjiale—a place where the past meets the present, and where the third-generation steward of Jiajia noodle-making art serves joy in a bowl.
Each Jiajia noodle session is an elaborate affair. The ritual involves serving, savouring, and celebrating, one spoonful at a time. As you immerse in this delicious dance, a unique pebble-counting method keeps track of the bowls you’ve relished.