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Nedong District: Cradle of Tibetan Civilization and Historical Landmarks

Nedong, (སྣེ་གདོང་རྫོང་།) a district renowned for its cultural and historical significance. It is situated in a geographically strategic location in south-central Tibet. Nestled south of the majestic Gangdise Mountains and amid the middle reaches of the Brahmaputra River, Nedong presents a landscape rich in natural beauty and Tibetan heritage.

Geographic Coordinates and Administrative Details:


  • Location: Nedong, positioned at the coordinates of north latitude 28.7° to 29.6° and east longitude 91.6° to 92.0°, offers a diverse range of geographical features from river valleys to mountainous terrains.
  • Postal Code: The area is designated with the postal code 856100, facilitating postal services within and beyond the region.
  • Area Code: The long-distance area code for Nedong is 0893, connecting it to the wider telecommunications network of Tibet and China.

Surrounding Regions:

  • Eastern Borders: Nedong shares its eastern boundaries with Sangri County and Qusong County, regions known for their religious and natural sites.
  • Southern Neighbors: To the south, it is bordered by Longzi County and Cuomei County, areas rich in Tibetan culture and history.
  • Western Adjacency: On the west, Nedong is adjacent to Qiongjie County and Zhanang County, offering a gateway to the diverse landscapes of Tibet.
  • Northern Connection: The northern border meets Mozhugongka County, further integrating Nedong into the tapestry of Tibetan districts.

Geographical Expanse:


  • Length: The district extends approximately 85 kilometres from north to south, showcasing a variety of ecosystems and cultural landmarks.
  • Width: Spanning a width of about 30 kilometres from east to west, Nedong encompasses a mix of urban and rural landscapes, each with its unique character and charm.

Nedong stands as a testament to Tibet’s rich cultural tapestry, offering a blend of historical sites, spiritual centres, and natural beauty. Its strategic location amidst vital Tibetan counties and its diverse geographical features make it a significant destination for those seeking to explore the heart of Tibetan culture and nature.

Nedong or Naidong District

Naidong (Tibetan: sne-gdong), a district rich in historical significance. It is named after its location “in front Elephant Trunk Mountain”. Its name has been translated into various forms in Chinese, including “Ledong”, “Nidong”, and “Yarlong Naidong Zong”. This area holds a special place in Tibetan history, dating back to around the 2nd century BC when it witnessed the rise of the first generation of Tibetan kings. These rulers established the earliest palace in Tibet, Yumbulakang, marking Naidong and the neighbouring Qiongjie areas as pivotal political centres in ancient Tibet.

Historical Evolution:

  • Establishment of Naidong Sect: In AD 1353, the Naidong Sect was founded, further cementing its importance in the region.
  • County to District Transition: Initially established as a county in 1959, Naidong underwent administrative changes, evolving into Naidong District in 2016, with its district government located at Yingxiong Road, Zedang Street.

Geographic and Demographic Details:

  • Area: Naidong District spans an area of 2180 square kilometers, showcasing a blend of cultural landmarks and natural beauty.
  • Population: As of November 1, 2020, the district had a permanent population of 81,608, reflecting its status as a thriving community.
  • Administrative Structure: The district comprises 21 townships, 5 towns, and 3 streets, demonstrating a diverse administrative framework.
  • Proximity to Lhasa: Naidong is conveniently located approximately 183 kilometres away from Lhasa, the capital city of the Tibet Autonomous Region, making it an accessible destination for visitors and residents alike.

Recent Developments:

  • Poverty Alleviation Success in Naidong: In October 2017, Naidong achieved the significant milestone of being successfully removed from the list of poverty-stricken counties.
  • E-Commerce Recognition: In 2018, Naidong earned recognition as an e-commerce rural comprehensive demonstration county, showcasing its advancements in modernization and digital integration.

Naidong, with its historical roots and contemporary developments, stands as a testament to Tibet’s evolving landscape. From its ancient origins as the cradle of Tibetan kings to its current status as a district embracing modernity, Naidong continues to be a significant region, both historically and in contemporary times.

Travel Tips for Naidong, Tibet


1. Yalong Tashi Sholpa – Tibetan Opera

  • Cultural Significance: Yalong Tashi Sholpa is a distinguished form of Tibetan white mask opera, recognized as a national intangible cultural heritage.
  • Historical Roots: Originating during the era of the fifth Dalai Lama, this opera has a rich tradition of performing annually in Lhasa during the “Drepung Shoton” festival and at various monasteries and residences of Tibetan officials.
  • Unique Elements: It features distinct drum and cymbal accompaniments, with a singing style and costumes that set it apart from other Tibetan operas. A notable scene is the portrayal of Thangtong Gyalpo, the founder of Tibetan opera, expressing joy through laughter at his creation.
  • Cultural Impact: The opera contributes significantly to preserving the unique aspects of Tibetan performing arts.

2. Tibetan Medicine Bathing Method

  • Recognition: This renowned practice from Shannan has been inducted into the national intangible cultural heritage list, highlighting its cultural and historical importance.
  • Health Benefits: The method is known for its therapeutic properties, combining medicinal knowledge with traditional bathing practices.

3. Naidong Dolbo Drö – Traditional Dance

  • Historical Legacy: With a history spanning 1300 years, Dolbo Drö is a traditional dance form of Naidong.
  • Distinctive Features:
    • Instruments: Dancers use waist drums with two drumsticks, creating vibrant and rhythmic music.
    • Costumes: The attire is ancient and simple, with unique headdresses and wigs that add to the performance’s authenticity.
    • Roles: The lead dancer, known as “Abrewa,” also serves as the director and announcer, guiding the actors and controlling the dance’s rhythm.
    • Performance: Characterized by large, rhythmic movements, the dance is known for its energy and powerful expression. The climax features actors beating drums with both hands while executing dynamic movements, creating a visually spectacular experience.
  • Cultural Recognition: In 2008, Dolbo Drö dance was listed as an intangible cultural heritage of the autonomous region, affirming its cultural value.

These cultural highlights of Naidong offer travellers a unique and enriching experience, immersing them in the rich tapestry of Tibetan history, art, and tradition. Whether it’s the enchanting Tibetan Opera, the therapeutic Tibetan Medicine Bathing Method, or the vibrant Dolbo Drö dance, each aspect contributes to the deep cultural heritage of the region.

Topography and Climate of Nedong County, Tibet


Topography

  • Geographical Features: Nedong County is characterized by its mountainous terrain and valleys, with the iconic Brahmaputra River flowing across the county.
  • Altitude Range: The region’s altitude varies significantly, with the lowest point at 3532.4 meters and several peaks exceeding 5000 meters in height. There are 11 peaks in total surpassing this elevation.
  • Prominent Peaks: Yala Xiangbo Mountain stands out as a notable peak and serves as the source of the Yalong River.
  • Diverse Landforms: Apart from mountains and valleys, Nedong County also features a variety of landforms including small lake basins.

Climate


  • Climatic Zone: The county experiences a plateau temperate zone semi-arid monsoon climate.
  • Temperature Variations: There is a significant diurnal temperature variation, common in high-altitude areas.
  • Rainfall Patterns: The rainy season spans from June to September, characterized by night rains and windy conditions.
  • Sunshine and Frost: The area receives abundant sunshine with an annual average of 2936.6 hours. However, the frost-free period is relatively short, lasting about 143 days.
  • Average Precipitation and Temperature: Annually, Nedong receives about 410mm of precipitation and maintains an average temperature of 8.3°C.
  • Natural Disasters: The region is prone to natural disasters such as droughts, frosts, and hailstorms.

Nedong County’s topography and climate reflect the unique and challenging conditions of the Tibetan Plateau. Its varied elevation contributes to a diverse range of microclimates and ecosystems. Visitors to the area can expect dramatic landscapes shaped by the interplay of mountains, valleys, and significant river systems, alongside a climate that, while offering generous sunshine, also poses challenges with its temperature fluctuations and propensity for natural disasters.

Specialty Products of Nedong County, Tibet


Agricultural Significance

  • Agricultural County: Nedong County is renowned for its agricultural significance within Tibet, recognized as one of Tibet’s 11 primary grain production bases.
  • Cultivation: The region primarily cultivates crops such as highland barley, wheat, peas, and rapeseed.

Livestock Farming

  • Animal Husbandry: The county is home to a variety of livestock, including yaks, oxen, cattle, sheep, goats, and horses.

Forest Coverage and Specialties

  • Forest Coverage: The forest coverage rate in Nedong County is an impressive 11.45%.
  • Local Specialties:
    • Carpets and Pulu: Known for their quality and craftsmanship.
    • Bambooware: Unique and traditional bamboo products.
    • Tibetan Boots: Traditional footwear that is both functional and culturally significant.
    • Medicinal Products: Including musk and cordyceps, known for their medicinal properties.
    • Fritillaria: A medicinal herb used in various traditional remedies.

Tourism Transportation in Nedong County


Road Connectivity

  • Extensive Road Network: Nedong County boasts a comprehensive road network that connects the county, townships, towns, and villages, facilitating easy automotive access throughout the region.

Major Routes

  • Connection to Sichuan-Tibet Highway: The county is connected to the Sichuan-Tibet Highway in Bayi Town to the east, providing a route to Chengdu via Qamdo.
  • Westward Route: Travelling west, the road leads to Qushui County and then turns north towards Lhasa.
  • Scenic Routes: A journey across the Qushui Bridge unfolds scenic vistas along the Brahmaputra River, showcasing the stunning river valleys and mountainous landscapes.

Cultural Landscape of Nedong County, Tibet


Ancient Architectural Heritage

  • Rich in Ancient Structures: Nedong County is a treasure trove of ancient buildings and historical sites, boasting over 20 ancient tombs.
  • Yumbulakang: ཡུམ་བུ་བརླ་མཁར། Believed to be constructed by the first Tibetan king. This site is a cornerstone of Tibetan history.
  • Jiru Lakang: ཀེ་རུ་ལྷ་ཁང་། The location of Tibetan King Tride Zuzan’s palace, adding to the historical depth of the county.
  • Trandruk Temple: ཁྲ་འབྲུག A significant site linked to Princess Wencheng’s marriage to Songtsen Gampo, highlighting the region’s connection to Tibetan royalty and historical events.
  • Zantang Temple: བཙན་ཐང་། A notable temple constructed during the Tang Dynasty era.
  • Chorten Gyatsagye Pagoda: A Ming Dynasty creation, contributing to the architectural diversity of the area.
  • Monkey Cave: སྤྲེའུ་བྲག་ཕུག་ A legendary site where a monkey is said to have transformed into a human, adding a mythical dimension to the county’s cultural landscape.

Yalong Tsangpo River Scenic Area


  • National Recognition: The Yalong River Scenic Area, known for its amalgamation of cultural and natural beauty, has been officially recognized by the State Council.
  • Vast Coverage: The scenic area spans a vast 920,000 square meters, showcasing the expansive natural beauty of Tibet.
  • Widespread Distribution: Scenic spots are scattered across seven counties including Nedong, Langkazi, Gonggar, Zhanang, Sangri, Qusong, and Qiongjie.
  • Diverse Attractions: Comprises 7 major scenic spots with 58 individual sites, including 35 premier attractions.
  • Natural Splendor: The area is celebrated for its unique natural conditions. It features snow-capped mountains, glaciers, pastoral pastures, river valleys, and a rich diversity of plant species.
  • Comparative Beauty: The river valley area is often likened to “Xishuangbanna in Tibet,” highlighting its lush and diverse ecosystem.

Summary

Nedong County is a repository of Tibetan history and culture, evident in its ancient architectural marvels and mythological sites. The Yalong River Scenic Area further enhances its cultural landscape, offering a harmonious blend of historical monuments and stunning natural vistas. This blend of ancient history and natural beauty makes Nedong County a unique and captivating destination in Tibet.

Travel Tips for Exploring Nedong, Tibet


Access to Nedong

  • From Lhasa: Nedong is conveniently located 183 kilometres from Lhasa, accessible by a smooth asphalt road. Travel options include shuttle buses, self-driving, or hiring a chartered car, with the charter cost ranging approximately from 500 to 700 yuan.

Exploring Key Attractions

  • Qushui Bridge Area: East of the bridge, a drive or boat ride leads to key attractions like Yongbulakang, Changzhu Temple, and the Tomb of the Tibetan King. West of the bridge, visit Samye Temple and Qingpu Ashram, both accessible via asphalt roads.
  • Lhamo Latso Holy Lake Scenic Area: Located 30 kilometres east of the county station, this area spans Nedong, Sangri, Jiacha, and Qusong counties. Notable spots include Woka Hot Spring, Qulong Temple, Lhamo Latso, and Lhagyari Palace.

Yalong Valley National Water Conservancy Scenic Spot

  • Recognition: The Yalong Valley in Nedong has been designated as a national water conservancy scenic spot by the Ministry of Water Resources, a first in the Shannan region.
  • Features: This scenic spot offers a comprehensive experience with waterfront leisure, cultural sightseeing, and educational opportunities in water conservation and culture.

Suggested Travel Itineraries


  • Shannan 1-Day Tours:
    • Route A: Jiru Lhakhang – Samye Temple.
    • Route B: Zedang – Yumbulakang – Trandruk Temple – Tomb of Tibetan King.
  • Shannan 3-Day Tour:
    • Day 1: Yumbulakang – Trandruk Temple – Yalong History Museum –
       [བྱ་ས་བང་སོ།] Tomb of Tibetan King.
    • Day 2: Jiru Lakhang – Samye Temple.
    • Day 3: Langsailin Manor – Minzhulin Temple – Zhatang Temple.
  • Shannan 5-Day Tour:
    • Day 1 (Eastern Loop): Zedang – Dansati Monastery – Kamatang Temple – Woka Hot Spring.
    • Day 2 & 3: Hiking or horseback riding to Holy Lake Lhamo Lhatso; explore the Nayu River Valley Scenery.
    • Day 4: Lodrak – Puma Yumtso – Sacred Mountain.
    • Day 5 (Western Loop): Sangding Monastery – Yamdrok Yongtso – Lhasa (or Gyantse).

These itineraries encompass a blend of cultural, historical, and natural sights, ensuring a comprehensive and enriching travel experience in the heart of Tibet.

Tsedang Town, (Zedang) Nedong, Tibet


Overview

  • Name Significance: Zedang, also known as Tsethang (རྩེད་ཐང ) and Zitang (rtsed-thang), translates to “the ground where monkeys play”. It is the cradle of Tibetan civilization.
  • Location: Situated on the south bank of the Brahmaputra River’s middle reaches in Nedong County.
  • Altitude: 3551 meters above sea level.
  • Area and Population: Spans over 3 square kilometers, housing nearly 2 million residents.
  • Climate: The average annual temperature ranges between 8°C to 9°C, with an annual precipitation of about 302 mm.

Historical Significance

  • Birthplace of the Tibetan Nation: Zedang holds a pivotal place in Tibetan history, dating back to 200 BC. It witnessed the emergence of the Yalong tribe, the first Tibetan King (Zanpu), the initial palace, and the earliest farmlands.
  • Former Royal Capital: During the 7th century AD, under King Songtsen Gampo, Zedang served as a royal capital before the seat of power shifted to Lhasa.
  • Pazhu Regime Era: Although it experienced a decline, Zedang regained prominence as the political hub of Tibet during the Pazhu regime’s rule.

Cultural and Economic Hub

  • Administrative Center: Zedang functions as the administrative headquarters of the Shannan region.
  • Economic and Cultural Heart: The town is a key economic, cultural, and religious hub in the area.
  • Famous for Handicrafts: It is notably recognized for its production of Pulu (a traditional Tibetan fabric) and aprons.
  • Tourism: Zedang is an integral part of the Yalong scenic area, boasting an abundance of ancient human cultural sites.
  • National Recognition: In 1998, Zedang was honored as Tibet’s only national civilized market town.

Zedang’s rich historical legacy, coupled with its vibrant cultural scene, makes it a must-visit destination for those seeking to experience the essence of Tibetan heritage.

Highlights of Nedong, Tibet


Traditional Tibetan Clothing

  • Men’s Attire: Tibetan men predominantly wear robes known as “Chuba” (phyu-pa), crafted from Pulu and wool. These robes feature a distinctive style with large left lapels and smaller right lapels, often fastened under the right armpit with buttons.
  • Women’s Fashion: Women commonly wear elegant thin robes and long-sleeved shirts, cinched at the waist and adorned with the intricate “Bangdian” (pang-gdan) patterns.

Kyentse School Thangka

  • Origin: Flourished in the mid-15th century, especially in the Tsang and Lhokha areas.
  • Founder: Gongga Gang Heap, also known as Kyentse chenmo, blended traditional Tibetan Nepalese painting with influences from Central Plains, Han Dynasty, and Indian art.
  • Artistic Style: Maintains larger subjects like traditional Tibetan Nepalese paintings but incorporates Han area styles in landscape expression. Notable for representing angry portraits with masculine beauty.

Travel Tips for Tsedang and Surrounding Areas


  1. Transportation: Zedang is 220 km from Lhasa, accessible by minibus, chartered car, or self-driving. Tourist facilities are well-developed, with options ranging from three-star hotels to budget accommodations for backpackers.
  2. Tourist Routes:
    • Day Tour from Zedang includes visits to Lhagyari Palace, Riguo Qude Temple, Ancient Tombs, Chusong County, Lhagyari Valley Earth Forest, Grassland, Yatui Zala Mountain, Yumbulakang, and Trandruk Temple.
    • Two-day and three-day tours are also available, offering a comprehensive exploration of Zedang and its rich cultural and natural heritage.
  3. Yarlung Zangbo River Observation Deck: Located 26 km from Tsedang Town, this is an ideal spot for panoramic views and photography. There’s a red and gold pavilion on the mountain overlooking the widest point of the Brahmaputra River.
  4. Yalong Cultural Festival: Held annually since 1992, this festival showcases the rich culture of Shannan and Tibet. It’s a part of the Chinese Folk Art Tour, highlighting Tibetan traditions and history.
  5. Garpa Harmony Dance: An ancient folk sacrificial song and dance included in the Tibetan intangible cultural heritage list. Originating in the 8th century, it represents the six major clans of Tibetan people and is performed grandly on the fifteenth day of the fifth month of the Tibetan calendar.

These cultural and historical aspects, along with the scenic beauty of Nedong and its surroundings, make it a unique and enriching destination for visitors seeking to immerse themselves in Tibetan heritage.

Yarlong History Museum in Zedang Town, Nedong


Overview:

  • Location: Zedang Town, Nedong, Tibet.
  • Established: 1995, marking it as Tibet’s first regional history museum.
  • Unique Feature: Showcases the extensive and diverse cultural heritage of the Yalong region.

Exhibitions and Collections:

  • Primary Theme: The museum’s basic display revolves around “Yalong Local History.”
  • Series of Exhibits: Includes a wide array of artifacts spanning from prehistoric culture to historical relics and folk cultural relics from the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties.
  • Key Artifacts:
    • “Baye Sutra”: A treasure of the museum, representing a unique form of miniature sculpture in Tibet.
    • “Thirteen Specials”: A collection of over 100 costumes from numerous Tibetan operas.
    • Folk Houses: Beautifully restored folk houses that offer insights into the daily life and architecture of the region.
    • Diverse Relics: An array of pottery, stoneware, metalware, stone tablets, stone carvings, seals, and documents, each narrating a part of Yalong’s rich history.

Visitor Experience:

  • Educational Journey: Visitors can delve into the long history and splendid culture of Yalong, learning about the ancient people’s wisdom and industrious creations.
  • Cultural Window: Acts as a portal to Yalong’s historical trajectory, showcasing the origin and development of Tibetan civilization in Shannan, as well as the unique history, culture, folk customs, and traditions of the Tibetan people and various ethnic groups in the area.

The Yarlong History Museum in Zedang Town is not just a repository of artifacts; it’s a vibrant educational center that brings the history and culture of Yalong and Tibet to life for its visitors.

Shannan Martyrs Cemetery in Zedang Town, Nedong


  • Location: Eastern foot of Shita Mountain, west of Zedang Town, Nedong.
  • Established: 1965.
  • Significance: Largest martyrs cemetery in Tibet with extensive, well-preserved data on the martyrs.

Exhibition and Memorials:

  • Display: Features the deeds and relics of 102 martyrs.
  • Artifacts: Includes 96 pieces, 11 sculptures, 62 illustrations, and 400 relics of martyrs.
  • Recognition:
    • Designated as a “National Key Martyrs Memorial Building Protection Unit” in 1989.
    • Included in Tibet’s “Red Tourism” activities.
    • Declared a “National Defense Education Base” in 2005.
    • Listed as a regional cultural relics protection unit in 1996.

Memorial Hall and Monument:

  • Memorial Hall: Houses exhibition rooms displaying the sacrifices of the martyrs during various historical events.
  • Monument: Stands tall with inscriptions and screen walls honouring the martyrs’ sacrifices.
  • Tombs: The cemetery has 781 tombs, forming a solemn resting place for the martyrs.

Yarla Shampo Sacred Mountain in Nedong


Overview:

  • Location: Source of the Yarlong River, Nedong County.
  • Altitude: 5820 meters above sea level.
  • Full Name: Sharsho Yakla Karbo (Eastern White Yak Mountain).
  • Also Known As: Yarla Snow Mountain.

Historical and Religious Significance:

  • Cultural Importance: Mentioned in Dunhuang ancient Tibetan manuscripts, revered as the highest god in the Yalong Valley.
  • Role in Tibetan History: Central to the history and development of the Tubo regime, the mountain god was worshiped by the Yalong tribe, which eventually led the Tubo regime.

Mythology and Symbolism:

  • Sacredness: Known as “Yarla Shampo”, ཡར་ལྷ་ཤམ་པོ ranking second among the “Nine God Mountains that formed the world.”
  • Mythical Transformation: Originally depicted as a white yak, later transformed into a white man, symbolizing the incarnation of the mountain god.
  • Color Symbolism: White, representing nobility and beauty in Tibetan culture, is associated with the Yarla Shampo Mountain God.
  • Buddhism: Initially opposed to Buddhism, the mountain god was later subdued by Master Padmasambhava, becoming a protector of the Buddhist faith.

Religious Practices:

  • Viewed as a significant holy place, the mountain attracts people for worship and prayer, reflecting its importance in Tibetan Buddhism and local culture.

Tour Tips for Visiting Yarla Shampo Sacred Mountain


1. Iconography of Yarla Shampo Mountain God:

  • Appearance: The mountain god is depicted in Tibetan paintings as a white god, symbolizing purity and nobility.
  • Attributes: He holds a short spear and a crystal sword, signifying his power and divine authority.
  • Mount: Rides a white divine yak, emphasizing the god’s majestic and sacred nature.
  • Consort: Langmiento Jipuyu, leader of the goddesses, depicted in light red, with lightning in her right hand and hail in her left, flying on lightning.
  • Companion: The “Nine-Headed Yakla Shampo,” governing over 10 billion war gods.

2. “Bare” Crop Field at the Mountain’s Foot:

  • Location: Near Sarè Village, northwest of Zedang Town.
  • Significance: Believed to be the first crop field in Tibet, held in high regard for its sacredness and fertility.
  • Cultural Importance: Site of the annual Spring Plowing Festival, attracting farmers from various regions to gather new soil, symbolizing blessings and hopes for a prosperous harvest.

3. Proximity to Zedang Town and Scenic Beauty:

  • Distance: Over 60 kilometres from Zedang Town to Yarla Shampo Mountain.
  • Natural Beauty: The area around the mountain, especially along the Yarla Shambo River, is known for its lush vegetation and abundant wheat fields, earning the title “Granary of Tibet.”
  • Accessibility: Easily reachable from Zedang Town, offering a blend of spiritual significance and natural beauty for visitors.

These tour tips offer a comprehensive guide to experiencing the spiritual, cultural, and natural aspects of Yala Xiangbo Sacred Mountain, a pivotal site in Tibetan history and belief.

Kongpo Ri Mountain: A Sacred Tibetan Site


Location and Significance:

  • Positioning: Kongpo Ri  མགོན་པོ་རི། Sacred Mountain (kong-po-ri) sits on the south bank of the Brahmaputra River in Nedong County, near Zedang Town.
  • Elevation: The mountain stands at a majestic height of 4472 meters.
  • Cultural Importance: Recognized as one of the four sacred mountains in Tibet, steeped in myth and legend.

Mythical Associations:

  • Sacred Animals: Each corner of the mountain is said to be guarded by mythical creatures – peacocks in the north, scorpions in the south, elephants in the west, and BMWs in the east.
  • Unique Geography: The mountain is believed to be suspended half in the air, neither entirely of the world nor wholly ethereal.
  • Spiritual Belief: Climbing and worshipping on this mountain is said to reveal visions of fairylands and bestow omniscience upon sincere devotees.

Three Peaks and Their Significance:

  1. Yangga wuzi Peak: The first peak, carrying its own set of myths.
  2. Senmu wuzi Peak: The second peak, is associated with the transformation of macaques into humans.
  3. Zhukangzi Peak: The third peak, known for being a meditation spot for Samantabhadra (kun-tu-bzang-po).

Historical and Spiritual Sites:

  • Monkey Cave: Situated on the mountainside, at an altitude of 4060 meters, this naturally formed cave is steeped in legend.
    • Dimensions: The cave is 2.5 meters high, 6.95 meters wide, and 15 meters deep.
    • Legendary Significance: Believed to be the sacred union place of macaques and Rakshasa women.
  • Artistic Heritage: Near the cave, there are natural formations resembling a macaque head and painted murals depicting macaques, alongside engraved Buddha statues and prayer flags, offering a glimpse into the mountain’s rich spiritual heritage.

Tour Tips for Kongpo Ri Sacred Mountain:

  1. Exploring the Three Peaks: Each peak offers unique mythological and spiritual experiences, making them worthwhile destinations for pilgrims and tourists alike.
  2. Visiting the Monkey Cave: A journey to this cave is a dive into the heart of Tibetan mythology, with its natural and man-made artistic treasures.
  3. Understanding Local Beliefs: Engaging with local guides or reading up on the mountain’s legends can enrich the visit, providing deeper insights into Tibetan culture and spirituality.

The Legend of the Macaque Transforming into a Human


Narrative Essence:

  • Origin Story: Rooted in Tibetan history, this legend describes the origins of the Tibetan people, believed to have descended from a macaque, an incarnation of the Guanyin Bodhisattva (spyan-ras-gzigs).
  • Divine Intervention: The tale recounts the macaque’s journey from practicing Buddhism in a cave to an enforced union with a rock demon, culminating in the birth of six (or in some versions, four) little monkeys.

Evolution of the Macaque and its Offspring:

  • Transition to Human Form: As the monkey population grew, they moved from forests to plains rich in grains and beans. Over time, their fur shortened, tails receded, and their language evolved, marking their transformation into human beings.
  • Birth of a Nation: These evolved beings are regarded as the forebears of the Tibetan people, symbolizing an intricate blend of mythology and history.

Tour Tips for Exploring the Monkey Cave:

  1. Transportation to the Site: A tricycle ride from Zedang Town to the base of Kongpo Ri Mountain is the first leg of the journey. The subsequent trek to the Monkey Cave takes about 2 hours.
  2. Navigation and Local Assistance: The Monkey Cave can be elusive, so consulting with locals for directions is recommended. For added ease, consider hiring a guide at a nominal fee (around 10 to 20 yuan), which not only aids in finding the cave but also enriches the experience with local insights.

Cultural Significance:

  • A Symbolic Tale: This legend offers more than just an origin story; it paints a vivid picture of ancient Tibetan life, blending the natural beauty of snow-capped mountains and lush grasslands with rich cultural heritage.
  • Historical Resonance: The transformation from macaque to human encapsulates a deep-seated narrative of evolution and civilization within Tibetan culture.

Trandruk Berotsana Cave (Bero Cave) – A Sacred Tibetan Site

Location and Proximity:

  • Tibetan: བེེ་རོ་ཕུག
  • Setting: Nestled on the slope of Shima Mountain, approximately 500 meters west of Bedong པད་གྲོང་Village in Trandruk Kemai Township, Nedong County.
  • Distance from Landmarks: About 3 kilometres from the central point of interest.

Historical and Cultural Significance:

  • Renowned Cave: Part of the “Yalong Three Holy Caves,” Berotsana Cave is esteemed for its spiritual significance in Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Spiritual Achievements of Bee-ro-tsa-na: The cave is celebrated as the meditative retreat of the revered Tibetan translator Bee-ro-tsa-na, known for his encounter with Manjusri Bodhisattva (vjam-dpyangs) and subsequent linguistic and intellectual enlightenment.

Cave Characteristics:

  • Orientation and Dimensions: The cave faces southwest with an irregular shape, extending to a depth of about 6 meters. The cave opening stands at about 8 meters high and 3 meters wide.
  • Interior Structure: The central section of the cave measures around 2.3 meters in height and 2.35 meters in width, while the rear end is 1.7 meters high and 2.2 meters wide.
  • Notable Features Inside the Cave:
    • Buddhist Artifacts: Visitors can observe naturally formed Buddhist scriptures and lion-mounted protector masks.
    • Bronze Buddha Seat: A notable 0.63 meters long, 0.15 meters wide, and 0.15 meters high bronze Buddha seat with lotus petals is placed on a stone platform on the cave’s left wall.
    • Stone Handprint: Allegedly left by Berotsana, this imprint is a highlight for pilgrims and visitors.
    • Mysterious Passage: An enigmatic narrow corridor at the cave’s end, measuring 0.8 meters in width and 0.2 meters in height, leads into the unknown depths.

Berotsana’s Legacy:

  • Early Monastic Life: Vairotsana, previously a Tibetan Monk, was among the first seven monks ordained in Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Contributions to Buddhism: Renowned for his journey to India for Dharma studies and inviting Indian monks to Samye Monastery. He played a pivotal role in translating and disseminating Buddhist scriptures.
  • Pilgrimage Site: The cave, marking his rigorous spiritual practice, has become a revered pilgrimage site, visited frequently by devout followers, including the 13th Dalai Lama.

Pilgrimage and Worship:

  • Draw for Devotees: The cave’s historical and spiritual significance makes it a magnet for believers seeking blessings and enlightenment.
  • Dalai Lama’s Visits: The repeated visits by the 13th Dalai Lama have further sanctified the cave, elevating its status in the Tibetan spiritual landscape.

Zedang Sheldrak Cave – A Tibetan Spiritual Haven

Location and Access:

  • Tibetan: ཡར་ཀླུངས་ཤེལ་བྲག
  • Position: Perched atop the main peak of Sheldrak Mountain, around 5 kilometres west of Zedang Town, Nedong County.
  • Altitude: Stands impressively at an elevation of 4550 meters.

Historical and Spiritual Background:

  • Tibetan Name: Known as “Sheldrak Drakpuk,” translating to “glass-like cave” in Tibetan.
  • Padmasambhava’s Retreat: Famed as a meditative sanctuary for the revered Buddhist Master Padmasambhava (Padma-vbyung-gnas), accompanied by his consorts.

Significance in Tibetan Buddhism:

  • Padmasambhava’s Practice Site: After preaching at Samye Monastery, Padmasambhava and his wives retreated here for three years of intense spiritual practice, attaining exceptional mystical powers.
  • Miraculous Manifestations: The cave is famed for naturally forming 21 Tara statues and several Indian pagodas on its walls, believed to be a divine occurrence linked to Padmasambhava’s profound spiritual achievements.

Sheldrak Cave Characteristics:

  • Structure: The cave has a convex shape on the plan, with the entrance measuring 3.44 meters in height and 0.86 meters in width.
  • Interior Dimensions: The cave extends to a width of 3.66 meters and a depth of 3.2 meters, formed from natural limestone.

Historical Relics and Renovation:

  • Initial Statues: Originally housed alloy statues of Padmasambhava, flanked by his Tibetan wife Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal and his Indian consort Mandarava.
  • Preservation: In 1962, the Panchen Lama orchestrated the relocation of these statues to Lhasa for safeguarding. The alloy statue of Padmasambhava is reportedly enshrined in Trandruk Temple’s Padmasambhava Hall.
  • 1981 Renovation: The cave was refurbished, and statues of Padmasambhava and Tangtong Jebu were added.

Sheldrak Surrounding Spiritual Sites:

  • Nearby Caves: Numerous caves in the vicinity have been sites of meditation for various saints, enhancing the area’s spiritual significance.
  • Sheldrak Celestial Burial Platform: Particularly renowned, this site was consecrated by Padmasambhava himself. It is believed that sky burials conducted here enable the departed to be reborn in one of the three higher realms.

Cultural and Spiritual Influence:

  • The Zedang Sheldrak Cave, steeped in legend and spiritual power, continues to be a beacon for Buddhist practitioners and pilgrims, embodying the rich tapestry of Tibetan religious history and practices.

Tsichu Pagoda – ཚེ་ཆུ་འབུམ་པ། A Testament to Tibetan Architectural and Spiritual Heritage


Location and Orientation:

  • Setting: Nestled in the mountain recess west of Dingna Township, Nedong County.
  • Orientation: The pagoda faces east, with the Tsichu Pagoda Temple positioned on its left front.

Historical Background:

  • Founder: Created by Youxiang Zunzhuizha (Zhang-brtson-grus-grags, 1123–1194), a pivotal figure in Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Tshal-pa Kagyu Sect: Tsundru Drakpa, the founder of the Tshal-pa Kagyu sect (Tshal-pa Bkav-brgyud), also known as “Caiba Lama Shang” or “Gongtang Lama Shang.” He was a disciple of Pazhu Dorje Gyalpo (Phag-gru-rdo-rje-rgyal-po, 1110–1170).

Architectural Features:

  • The Towers: The complex comprises five distinct towers.
  • Foundation: The towers sit on a rectangular stone base measuring approximately 30 meters in length, with a width ranging from 7 to 13 meters, and a height of 1.3 meters.
  • Design of the Towers: Each tower features a square base (0.5 meters high) and a round, bottle-shaped body (2.5 meters high).
  • Arrangement: Four towers are aligned in a row, while the fifth stands separately, believed to be a spiritual pagoda erected later in honour of Shang Tsundru Drakpa.

Construction Phases and Style:

  • Two Construction Periods: The Tsichu Bumpa Pagoda was built in two distinct phases, yet it showcases a harmonious and unified architectural style.
  • Artistic Reflection: The design and construction of the pagoda reflect the sophisticated level of Tibetan architectural art during that era, marking it as a significant cultural and spiritual landmark.

Cultural and Spiritual Significance:

  • The Tsichu Bumpa Pagoda stands as a witness to the rich history and spiritual journey of the Tshal-pa Kagyu sect in Shannan, embodying the profound religious and architectural traditions of Tibet.

Takchen Bumba Pagoda – A Cultural Gem in Nedong County


Location:

  • Tibetan: རྟག་སྤྱན་འབུམ་པ།
  • Situated: On the hillside of Buren སྤུ་རིང Mountain in Pozhang Township, Nedong County.
  • Historical Era: Founded during the era of Trisong Dezan of Tubo by Lama Jiatral Dulwa Zinpa (བྱ་བྲལ་འདུལ་བ་འཛིན་པ).

Architecture:

  • Orientation: The Takchen pagoda faces south.
  • Structure: Comprises three main parts – the tower base (11.3 meters in length east to west, 10.5 meters in width north to south), the tower body (bottle-shaped), and the top of the tower (includes elements like the vase, heavenly wheel, sun, and moon).

Contents:

  • Inside the pagoda are significant relics, including the left eye of the Lord of Compassion ( བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་པ་རྟག་ཏུ་ངུ), a crystal pagoda of Trisong Dezan, and various artefacts and personal items of Jiatral Dulwa Zinpa, lending great sanctity to the site. It will be helpful for the cure and well-being of Eyes.

Legends and Celebrations:

  • Auspicious Completion: Legend tells of miraculous signs appearing during the pagoda’s completion ceremony, including the descent of gods and a celestial rainbow, earning it the nickname “Tashi Weiba Pagoda.”

Chorten Gyatsagye Pagoda – A Symbol of Peace and Stability

Location:

  • Nestled: In the valley southwest of Buren Village, Pozhang Township, Nedong County.
  • Historical Significance: Constructed under the guidance of the 17th-century physician Rigna Jiacuo (Rig-gnas-rgya-mtsho).

Purpose:

  • Constructed: To foster peace, eliminate wars and epidemics, and manifest a harmonious society.

Structural Details:

  • Original Tower Wall: Initially 406 meters long (currently 360 meters), with 120 pagodas (119 remain today).
  • Dimensions: Tower wall is 14 meters high and 3 meters wide, topped with pagodas 1.7 meters in height.
  • Architecture: Stone-cut structure, regularly spaced at 1-meter intervals, exemplifying one of the finest pagoda groups in Tibet.

Miraze Mountain Observation Tower Ruins – A Window to the Past

Location:

  • Positioned: In Miraze Mountain near Changzhu Rejiong Temple, Nedong County.
  • Also Known As: The “Beacon Tower”, with a 600-year history.

Design:

  • Shape: Oval-shaped earth platform with stone edges.
  • Dimensions: North-south diameter of 11.3 meters, east-west path of 7.4 meters, rising 2.5 meters above the ground.
  • Features: Surrounded by a trench (2 meters wide, 1.6 meters deep) with a clear edge and stone steps leading up to it.

Historical Context:

  • War Relic: The observation tower stands as a testament to the historical conflicts between the Naidong and Qiongjie local governments, offering a glimpse into the region’s tumultuous past.

Nyago Druka Iron Cable Bridge Site – A Testament to Tibetan Engineering

Location:

  • Tibetan: ཉ་མགོ་གྲུ་ཁ
  • Situated: Near the Nyago Druka Ferry, north of Nedong Zedang Town.
  • Historical Significance: Constructed under the supervision of the renowned bridge master, Thang-stong-rgyal-po, in the 14th century.

Architectural Features:

  • Bridge Piers: Comprises 5 piers aligned north to south, built from stone. The remaining height of the piers ranges from 1 to 8 meters, with diameters between 3 and 15 meters, and spaced approximately 2 meters apart.
  • Bridge Length: Originally spanned between 150 and 250 meters, supported by no less than 30 piers.
  • Remnants: Includes ruins of bridgeheads at both ends.

Importance:

  • The bridge once played a crucial role as a major transportation link between Lhasa and the Yalong region, crossing the Brahmaputra River.
  • Provides valuable physical evidence for the study of the history and evolution of bridge engineering in Tibet.

Thang-stong-rgyal-po – The Visionary Behind the Bridge

Identity:

  • Full Name: Thang-stong-rgyal-po (1385—1464).
  • Religious Affiliation: Eminent monk of the Shangpa Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism, revered as the “Iron Bridge Living Buddha.”

Background:

  • Early Life: Born into a poor family in Tibetan Wogaraz, he joined Nyima Sengge at Xiangjue Temple in his youth to study writing and reading.
  • Monastic Life: Ordained as a monk by the Sherab in Dodojiala Temple, receiving the name “Tsundue Sangpo.”

Contributions:

  • Studied the Tripitaka and later journeyed across India, the mainland, and Kangzang, establishing numerous monasteries.
  • Renowned for his compassionate mission to construct bridges for easing river crossings, funded often through performances and Tibetan opera.
  • Credited with building over 58 cable bridges and 60 wooden bridges across the Yarlung Zangbo River.

Legacy in Arts and Medicine:

  • Known as the founder of Tibetan opera, employing various artistic methods like calligraphy, painting, and singing for preaching.
  • Innovated in medicine, creating remedies like the “White Pill” and “Red Pill” for treating internal diseases and epidemics.

Thang-stong-rgyal-po’s life was dedicated to enriching Tibetan culture and improving the lives of its people, leaving an enduring legacy in the fields of engineering, arts, and medicine.

Yar-klungs-Zampa The Architectural Marvel of Nedong County

Location and Historical Context:

  • Situated: On the Yalong River near Nedong County.
  • Era: Constructed during the Pazhu Dynasty.
  • Style: Designed in the traditional Kong Pingliang mode.

Structural Features:

  • Dimensions: The bridge spans a length of 45 meters, with a width of 3.8 meters and a height of 4.5 meters.
  • Construction: The bridge deck consists of 99 large longitudinally arranged logs, safeguarded by thick wooden railings on both sides.
  • Support System: Underneath these large logs lies a layer of horizontally arranged square logs, supported further by nine vertical round logs and stone-based bridge piers.
  • Design: The central pier, boat-shaped, with water-facing masonry divided into water points, effectively aids in water diversion.

Functionality and Maintenance:

  • Purpose: Serves as a vital connection between Nedong, Hexi, Qiongjie, and surrounding areas.
  • Recent Developments: Government-funded renovations have added stone railings and reinforced barbed wire, enhancing its functional role.
  • Significance: The Yalong Wooden Bridge is recognized as the earliest existing wooden bridge in Nedong, exemplifying the advanced bridge construction techniques of 14th-century Tibet.

Naidong Carpet Factory – A Testament to Tibetan Craftsmanship


Foundation and Development:

  • Established: In 1974, evolving from family handicraft workshops to a collective enterprise under the Nedong Neighborhood Committee.
  • Export: Annually exports around 3,500 square feet of carpets.

Production Process:

  • Comprehensive Techniques: Incorporates complete production stages including carding, spinning, dyeing, winding, hand-weaving, and flat shearing.
  • Unique Practices: Features distinctive Tibetan knotting and dyeing methods.

Designs and Popularity:

  • Motifs: Carpets often depict scenic attractions such as Yongbulakang, Changzhu Temple, and Samye Temple.
  • Product Range: Offers a variety of “Yalong” brand carpets, tapestries, and card mats.
  • International Appeal: Exports to over 10 countries including the United States, Germany, Japan, India, and Nepal. Particularly popular in European and American markets.
  • Attributes: Renowned for vibrant colors, exquisite patterns, hand-woven craftsmanship, and high-quality wool, these carpets have garnered a substantial customer base both domestically and internationally.
About the author

The Tibetan Travel website's creator, hailing from Lhasa, is a cultural enthusiast. They promote responsible tourism, connecting the world to Tibet's beauty and heritage. Awards recognize their contribution.

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